Many things divide us: language, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, politics, ideology, personal history, temperament, private wounds, moral judgments.
It is hard to see people who are different from us as brothers and sisters, loved and valued by God in the same way we are. These differences are really our outer garments, things that in the end are accidental and incidental to our real selves.
We wear more than physical clothing to cover our naked selves; we cover our nakedness too with a specific ethnicity, language, religious identity, culture, political affiliation, ideology, set of moral judgements, and a whole gamut of private wounds and indignation. These are in essence our outer garments.
We also possess a deeper inner garment. Our real substance, identity, and capacity to act with larger hearts, lies underneath. What lies beneath our outer garments?
John 13, 2-5 reads: “Jesus knowing that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, got up from the table, took off his outer garments and, taking a towel, wrapped it around his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing.”
When John describes Jesus “taking off his outer garment”, he means more than just the stripping off some physical clothing. To let go of the pride that blocks all human beings from stooping down to wash the feet of someone different than oneself, Jesus had to strip off a lot of outer things (pride, moral judgments, superiority, ideology, and personal dignity) so as to wear only his inner garment.
Jesus’ inner garment was his knowledge that he had come from God, was going back to God, and that therefore all things were possible for him, including his washing the feet of someone whom he already knew had betrayed him.
Our true inner garment is the reality that lies deeper beneath our race, gender, religion, language, politics, ideology, and personal history (with all its wounds and false pride). Like Jesus, we too have come from God, are returning to God, and therefore can do anything, including loving and washing the feet of someone very different from ourselves.
Our inner garment is the image and likeness of God inside of us. (Ron Rolheiser, OMI)