Our first reading gives us the opening paragraph of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and what might strike you about it is that it was very formal. It gives us Paul’s credentials as one of the Apostles. It describes the great glory of Christ. It praises the Romans as a people called by God to heavenly greatness.
The formality of the letter’s opening reminds me of a similar style in letters Korean people wrote me when I was over there. Their letters would open by thanking me for the prayers that had made their lives happy. Their sentences would go on to express sincere desires that my parents were in good health.
I used to laugh at those pretentious sentences, but I look back on them with admiration now that email and twitter have us communicating in half words expressing nothing but our passing opinions.
Up to the last century rich people dressed like lords and ladies, and us poor people mimicked them with vests, ties, full-length slips and fancy hats. Then, an informality took over America twenty years ago. It happened when bankers with vests, and sometimes spats, went to Silicon Valley to tap in on the money there. They came on young billionaires in T-shirts and no socks, so the bankers led us all in saying goodbye to dressing with care.
In a way the trend toward informality has been a good, honest thing. But we might also regret what is happening with it. There was a time when people were neat and proper in their attire and when they had company manners. Back then, going out for dinner was an uplifting experience. Now, the T-shirts that are not tucked-in, along with the loud talk in our restaurants, has us missing the past. There was a time when the company of ladies and gentlemen had us comporting ourselves with a dignity befitting children of God.