Sunday, September 2, 2012

Baptized with the Spirit and Fire

Praying the Rosary and meditating on Jesus' Baptism by John took a different turn this morning. My attention became focused on John's reaction to Jesus. "I need to be baptized by you" (Mt.3:14). Now, of course John recognized Jesus' superior holiness, but there is something else we ought to recognize: Part of John's preaching was how the Messiah would offer a baptism superior to his.   John had told the crowds, "I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Mt.3:11).

The baptism offered by Jesus, the Sacrament of Baptism, changes us in the deepest parts of our humanity.  We are given sanctifying grace, meaning that are damaged souls are repaired and renewed as the Holy Spirit rushes in and takes up residence in them.  We still retain however inclinations toward old patterns of behavior that need to be undone - "burned away" you could say, and that is an ongoing process, one that God wants us to take part in.  It can hurt.  On some rare occasions God may seem like an old-fashioned doctor using a piece of white-hot iron to cauterize a wound and prevent further infection!  It takes faith to recognize God as a Father, Who always has our eternal best-interests at heart.

“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.  Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. (Heb.12:5-12)

I rather like the way C.S. Lewis paraphrased this in Mere Christianity.  I do not have my copy in front of me but if memory serves, he wrote,  "God loves us now, just as we are; but He loves us too much to allow us to remain the way we are!"

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