THE BAPTISM OF FIRE!
In the Acts of the Apostles we hear Paul speaking about two types of baptism: the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism in the name of Lord Jesus. (Acts 19, 1-8) As Paul clarifies, the baptism of John was an invitation to purify and to prepare the people to wait for the revelation of the true human life: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’”. (Luke 3, 4) People are called to purify themselves by establishing justice and equality in the society. The intervention of John the Baptist is harsh and immediate. It is like the preparation of a ground for cultivation. If the earth is hard and wild with the presence of rocks and thistles the farmer uses strong tools. In order to cultivate some useful plants, he eliminates everything that is useless. It involves hard work and deliberation. The first anointing that we receive on our bosom during the time of baptism remind us the call of John the Baptist for austerity and discipline so that our hearts may be purified and prepared to grow in divine grace.
John the Baptist said: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3, 11) With the episode of Jesus and Nicodemus the evangelist John clarifies that the baptism in the name of Jesus is a ‘birth from above’. (John 3, 3) It is a new birth in the Spirit by which Jesus, who is the perfect revelation of humanity, becomes the only point of reference for our thought and action. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians explains that ‘to be born again’ means ‘to put away the old human nature which is guided by the instincts and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and to clothe ourselves with the new self created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’. ( Eph 4, 22-23)
After the Baptism of purification we receive a Baptism of the Holy Spirit by which we are empowered to gradually grow in Christ and witness His true human life. But here the methods are delicate and gentle. It is like sowing the seed in a garden. The farmer has to wait in patience for its springing up and growth. The water and manure are to be provided with much care and attention. At the reception of our baptism, the second anointing that we receive on our forehead with the fragrant oil, Sacred Chrism, indicates the Baptism in the name of Jesus. This Baptism of fragrance invites us to grow in humility and patience and become another Christ and share to the world the fragrance of true human life, the fragrance of compassion. This baptism of fire also indicates a sacrificial death for the glory of God and for the good of all.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read how the disciples of Jesus, after a community spiritual exercise with Blessed Virgin Mary, give witness to the height of their Christian religious experience and culture. The people of diverse languages and cultures could learn from them the language of love of the New Humanity which has the power to unite all the people of the world into one human culture. (Acts 2, 8-11) They were so filled with the Spirit of Jesus that they were no more preoccupied or irritated by some worldly elements that divide them rather, they were taken up by the godly elements that unite them. They realized for a moment that they were brothers and sisters and they are the children of the one and the same God. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans that ‘all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God’. (Rom 8, 14)
As it is mentioned in the Gospel of John, growing in Christ is not a one day business. ( John 16, 12) If we consciously participate with the work of the Holy Spirit within us we can gradually experience and share with others the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John also indicates how the Spirit of God will guide us gradually into the all truth. (John 16, 13) At the same time we read in the Letter to the Galatians that there are some elements in the society who are against the growth of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding in us. (Gal 5, 18) Like the farmer eliminates diligently the elements that block his cultivation in the field, we have to purify our soul with the zeal of John the Baptist and then anoint it with the perfume of Jesus, the New Man.Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest