Baptism of the Lord Jan 13, 2019
In the Gospel we just heard John the Baptist tells us that “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
I was a bit surprised on reading this. I was fully aware that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism, and that gift is truly wonderful. But I was a bit surprised that John the Baptist also mentions “fire”. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Let us reflect on this a bit. Were we baptized with both the Holy Spirit and fire? If so, are you all fired up? Is your faith burning? Keep the flame of faith alive in your heart we are told. Are you on fire for your faith?
The Holy Spirit and fire John the Baptist says. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes down on the Apostles in the form of flames, or tongues of fire. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus tells us we will be salted with fire. (Mk 9:49)
Clearly, we are called not to passive faith, to lukewarm, mediocre, insipid faith, but to be fired up: To have a faith that is alive, energized, on fire. Jalapeno faith, wasabi faith, not bland mushy faith.
We are to have a faith that gives light and warmth not only to ourselves but to those around us. Let your light shine.
But fire also burns. Fire purifies precious metals by burning out the impurities. In that sense fire is both destructive and purifying. Jeremiah the prophet experienced this. His was a difficult job, telling God’s people truths that were unpleasant, inconvenient, very challenging. They did not want to hear this and Jeremiah did not want to tell them. So, he tried to stifle and stuff down the Word of God. Jeremiah said: “I say I will not mention God, I will no longer speak in His name.
But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones: I grow weary holding back, I cannot!”
Does God’s Word burn in you? Does the Word of God cause you heartburn? Do you want it to?
What does it mean today for you and me to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire? I believe this is a challenge to us. St Paul told his friend and follower St. Timothy, and also us, “ that you have through the imposition of my hands. ” (2 Tim 1:6-7)
Brothers and sisters, like so many times in the past, there is much in our world today attempting to scare and frighten us into silence and submission. But we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire: with both wisdom and strength and energy. We do not need to act out of fear. We can act with the strength of the Holy Spirit. For we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire! God bless.