Little Henry accompanied his parents to church for the Baptism of his cousin Karen. After paying close attention to the ceremony and listening to the priest proclaim, “Welcome our newest Christian Karen who has just been baptized,” Henry turned to his parents and asked, “When was I advertised?”
When you stop and think about it … baptism is a form of “advertisement” — we proclaim — or our families ADVERTISE FOR US — that we are now a follower of Jesus, a member of his body — a Christian.
In the Jewish tradition, people were baptized for one of three reasons:  as a sign of repentance,  as a sign of conversion to Judaism, or  as a proclamation [advertisement] that one has begun ministry as a priest. In Jesus case, he had no need to repent or to convert — his baptism was a sign that he was beginning/advertising his public ministry.
Ok: for you and me — for our friends and family — what does our baptism mean? Could it mean that we are a walking, talking, breathing witness [advertisement] of our faith in Jesus and that we are followers of Jesus?
We all know the power of advertisement!! All of us have to admit we have bought something at the grocery store that we have seen advertised on television. Perhaps we have learned about new features on an automobile from a friend …. but it is also very likely that seeing a car design and appearance on a billboard or in a magazine or on TV — catches our attention.
Advertisements can be in print [magazines, newspaper, flyers], on the radio or television, on the Internet, by word-of-mouth —- and through demonstration.
Pope Francis advertises his faith and his priorities by public witness. What the Pope has written and said is not always so new or novel [and sometimes it is!]. Other Popes have written about the extremes of unregulated capitalism — but he caught the attention of the world by riding in a Ford Focus rather than a Mercedes or by living at a hotel with others rather than in the Papal Apartments. Others have talked about concern for the homeless — but he invited four homeless men [and the dogs of two of the men!] to join him for breakfast on his birthday. Other Popes have talked about the value of every human life — but who can forget the picture of Pope Francis kissing a man with “growths” all over his head?
In Isaiah [42:1-4, 6-7], the prophet proclaims — “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; …”
So what is the most important element of baptism: water [immersion or pouring]? the anointing? the candle? the godparents? While all of these are important —- HOW ABOUT THE PERSON BEING BAPTIZED? [advertised]
When Jesus was baptized, a voice spoke from heaven [Matthew 3:13-17] proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
As we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we are challenged to recall not only what we “got” in baptism — i.e. a relationship with Jesus, membership in the Church, the promise of eternal life — BUT ALSO, to remember that something is being expected of us because we are baptized. To those who have been given much — much is expected — and the promise of a chance for eternal life would indicate that much is expected.
If we are the victim of “false or misleading advertising“, we feel cheated. We complain. We let others know about our displeasure. We might even seek a refund or complain in writing.
Sooooooo, what kind of advertising are we for Jesus? For the Gospel? For our Church?
What about our congregation or faith family? What are we advertising?
Many of us remember be told and taught: Remember who you are and who you represent!!
As we recall and celebrate our Baptism, let us remember who we are — who we represent — what we advertise. Pope Francis gets high marks for his work of advertising faith and the Church. How about us?