Baptism brings about belonging. John baptizes with water. The people who are baptized by John belong to him. They are his followers; they are his disciples.
We are baptized by the priest of the church who stands in the place of Jesus. So we are baptized by Jesus. We are his; we belong to him.
By virtue of our baptism we are Jesus’ disciples. And John is very clear that Jesus baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit.
The baptism of fire burns away our impurities and purifies us. A refiner’s fire is used to make gold and silver pure. The impurities are burned away leaving only the precious metals.
When we are baptized in Jesus’ fire our sinfulness is burned away leaving only what is precious, leaving only what is full of grace.
Sometimes we get overwhelmed by our sins. We think we are not worthy and cannot be holy. Or we think that we have to overcome our sins alone. Jesus’ baptism of fire burns away our impurities, burns away our sins, so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, we can slowly, over time, be purified and move away from our sins.
The baptism in the Spirit ignites a fire in our souls and inflames us with a zeal and a passion for the things of God.
The Spirit empowers us to reveal God’s love and grace to the world. The Spirit enables us to be pastoral and kind.
The Spirit stirs up in us a renewal that starts within. This renewal gives us a new heart and leads us to a new life.
This new life in the Spirit enables us to be more like Jesus, to act with charity like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to serve like Jesus, to love like Jesus.
Baptism is about belonging and John baptizes Jesus with water. But Jesus baptizes us with fire and the Holy Spirit.
We pray that the Spirit and the flame ignite a passion for God in each of our hearts now and throughout this New Year.