Philip Kosloski graduated from the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and Catholic Studies and completed his Master of Arts degree in Theology with the Augustine Institute. He is a writer and author of In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin. He blogs at philipkosloski.com and writes to help all Catholics master the art of prayer by conquering the practical obstacles that prevent a fruitful relationship with Christ.
The next corporal work of mercy, “clothe the naked,” seems rather straightforward. One would think that it simply means to give clothes to someone who doesn’t have any. While that certainly is an aspect of this work of mercy, it does not paint the whole picture. Jesus challenges us to be much more active when he said to the sheep on his right, “[I was] naked, and you covered me” (Matthew 25:36).
Jesus (and the Church) ask us to “clothe” the naked and not simply drop-off our excess wardrobe at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store (which is good to do). God wants us to be active in our works of mercy and to touch the lives of individual people.
One of the most famous modern-day examples who “clothed” the naked was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Each morning she would go out into the streets to find men and women too sick to care for themselves. After carrying them back to the hospice, Mother Teresa would bathe, clothe and feed them. She believed everyone deserves to be treated with great dignity and actively helped the poor in her community for the rest of her life.
However, not all of us are called to minister to the needs of the homeless in Calcutta. That is why Mother Teresa would often say,
“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. … You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
When we search out the “naked” of our local community, we shouldn’t only be looking for those without clothes. We should also look for those who are rejected, alone, and forgotten. They too are “naked,” without friends or family, stripped of all meaningful human relationships. They are like the man in the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” He was not only stripped of his clothes, beaten and left for dead, but also completely alone. Numerous people passed him by and no one extended a hand. He was treated like he was invisible.
There are numerous people in our community (and sometimes our own family), who are “left for dead” and are stripped of everything in their lives. They often feel invisible and think that no one cares about them. It is our duty as Christians to comfort, console and “clothe” them. We may not have to give them actual clothes, but we certainly can give them our love, time and presence.
The key attribute of the “Good Samaritan” is that he went above and beyond what was necessary, putting the man on his own donkey and taking the time to nurse him back to health. We are challenged to be charitable beyond our comfort zone and to take an active part in restoring someone to their dignity as a human person.
Let us ask for Blessed Mother Teresa’s intercession as we go forth into the world to be missionaries of Jesus’ mercy.