As far back as I can remember I had a love-hate relationship with buying brand name stuff. I knew it was important to some people whether your shirt had a little bird on it or if you really liked these Abercrombie and Fitch people. Now that I am older, I only wear name brands if they come from the thrift store (I’m doing what I can to rock my dad-style). However, I find myself torn about brand names when I get sent on food retrieval missions or grocery store runs when I’m not feeling imaginative. I also struggle with what brand is better when buying power tools and the like. And I am persnickety about my paint brushes. I want Purdy or I don’t want it. I’m sure I’m not the only who struggles with the question “In what should clothe myself?” Our first reading gives us the answer.
In today’s first reading St. Paul wrote, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” To our modern sensibilities, this means we have bought into the brand name. Through our Baptism, we are supposed to be a walking billboard for Jesus. We don’t have to be obnoxious like Abercrombie and Fitch. It might be more synonymous with the North Face logo on someone’s back shoulder or the Hollister bird where a pocket should be. Either way, we should be about Christ and for Christ. We should swear by Christ’s reliability and staying power with more zeal than people talk about Toyota or Honda. I should be as ready to make the investment for Christ as I am for a Purdy brush. We should be all in for Christ. And that is just the connection from our modern perspective.
When we look at the ancient connection we remember that clothing was not a loose insinuation of status, but a declaration. Today I can wear nice clothes and not have status, but in the ancient world, your clothes communicated who you were, what your standing was, and how you should be treated. Paul declares Christ the great equalizer. When we are Baptized, we are clothed in Christ. We become co-heirs to the throne. We share Christ’s mantle of priest, prophet, and king. It doesn’t eradicate the structure of the society in which we live but does place a demand upon how we see one another. Paul essentially tells us that our first impression of another Baptized Christian should be Jesus. Here is a person to whom I must be Christ and a person who can be Christ to me.
In Baptism, we are clothed in Christ. It is a marvelous gift of grace that demands a costly lifestyle.