After working a healing miracle in the presence of some pagans, Sts. Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes, because the pagans had begun to worship them as if they were gods. This was tantamount to blasphemy in their ears, and they responded in the traditional Jewish custom of the time. There are many instances of people tearing apart their own garments in both the New and the Old Testaments, but this practice seems to have died away in the early centuries of Christianity. One reason for this loss is the precept of Joel 2:13: “rend your hearts and not your garments.” It does no good to make an outer show that does not reflect an inner reality.
Given that we no longer make such outer shows, are we still capable of that inner reality? When Sts. Paul and Barnabas saw people around them intending to do something evil, they rent their garments. When we see people around us about to do something evil, do we care enough to rend our hearts? Or do we just shrug it off?
No need to become sanctimonious or moralizing or to claim the moral high ground. What there is a need for, if we really care about those around us, is for us to suffer inwardly when those around us despise God’s laws.