Clothe the naked

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

The third corporal work of mercy is "to clothe the naked". Jesus even demanded it of His disciples (Matthew 25: 36). St Martin of Tours was known to have divided his winter cloak during the deep winter season to cover a beggar who was on streets naked. Before we go into the challenges of responding to this invitation, however, it is important to look at clothing and how humans use them.

The first time humans made clothes was when Adam and Eve discovered that they were naked. They decided to make clothes from leaves to cover their shame. This brings out the primary human motive for wearing clothes: to cover or to protect the body. Our human body is delicate. It needs some covering or protection. Generally, people are shy to be seen naked except when they have ulterior motives. It is therefore, common human moves to cover oneself for shame of being seen naked or for protection.

We cannot even leave our bodies uncovered for a long time. If we do, we may catch cold during cold weather. If it is under the sun, the scorch of the sun may really be unbearable; and may have its side effects on our skins. White people, for instance, easily develop skin cancer when they are over exposed to the sun.

When we are naked, we easily catch skin disease. We may be badly bitten by insects. Therefore, we wear clothes to protect our bodies from the effects of the weather, and to prevent diseases. Weather changes have also informed the different uses people make of clothes. Weather changes have made people to sow clothes according to their differences.

Beyond protection, we wear clothes to identify ourselves. Occasionally, priests would receive comments like - "I didn't know it is you, you are not in your cassock". In our Church, priests and religious have habits. You remember the proverb, "habit does not make a monk"? It is because humanity has also fashioned clothes to be sources of identification and classification. With clothes, you will be able to distinguish a police from a navy, an army, a civil defense, and so on.

In the Church, during Mass, you will be able to identify lay readers, altar servers and choristers. Even when the security agents are looking for missing persons, they could use clothes to identify them. Nsukka Catholic diocese just got seven new monsignors. We are going to see additional priests wearing red buttons on our land. Thus, it is good to know that the cassock of monsignors is different from that of other priests. Even though a monsignor's cassock is close to the one used by bishops, it still has something that shows it is not that of a bishop.

We also use clothes at celebrations to adorn ourselves. Think of those doing "asebi" during traditional marriage ceremonies. They use clothes and other costumes to beautify themselves for the celebration. They look colourful. They look gorgeous. They are adorable. At funerals, as well, our people had how they used clothes to indicate their mournful moods. Some places in Nsukka land, our people still tie wrappers at their waists with some drapes at the left side. Anybody who sees somebody dressed like that knows immediately that the person is bereaved while they mourn their loved ones.

In spite of all the above benefits of wearing clothes, not everybody has the enablement to wear clothes or to wear the appropriate clothes. Some people have clothes called "jere uka, jere akwukwo". That is, when a person has just one set of clothes used for multiple purposes. If one is going to Church on Sundays, he puts it on; and if he is going to school Monday through Friday, he puts it on.

He is at home on Saturday, he puts it on. That is the only set of clothes the person has. Some people may have clothes, but they not have for different weathers. It is only when we consider all these that we begin to understand the need to clothe the naked. In our world today, there are people who go naked. We are called to clothe them. Next week, we will be looking at the challenges of clothing the naked.

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