This morning, I reflected on the baptism of Jesus. In the synoptics, John said he baptizes with water for repentance, but one who would come after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Why water and fire? Water cleanses externally. It washes away the dirt and grime that settles on the skin. Fire, on the other hand, really purifies all.
John says he uses water for a baptism of repentance. Repentance is a means of becoming aware of our imperfections, and regretting them. The Bible teaches that more is necessary, that we must have a true conversion; a turning towards God; a coming from darkness to light.
Baptism by water comes first. In our earthly baptism, we start to see our sinful nature, and we regret it. Regret is insufficient. So, the waters of baptism cleanses us, but more importantly, Baptism places the fire within. It sets us on the path of true conversion, full purification. It sets us on the way; on the path of discipleship. On this path, we constantly encounter Jesus, who continues to open our eyes to the better and more perfect way. He shows us where we are missing the mark, and encourages us to change. In this way, the fire burns away all imperfection, until we fully die and rise with Christ.
In other words, our spiritual journey is the way of attaining all that Jesus promised in the gospel. Baptism with water begins the cleansing process. In addition, it opens the door to the interior where the Holy Spirit takes up residence. Baptism is the gateway to the kingdom of God. It is the beginning of a process of being purified so that we can become one with God in three persons. It is the beginning of a journey. We must be careful not to spend our lives standing in the gateway. We must pass through the gate, and take a journey with the Holy Spirit. He will lead us from the outer boundaries of the kingdom to the castle, where we will live for eternity in union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Spend some time with the Spirit pondering your own conversion. The word “conversion” means a turning towards God. It implies a 180° change in behavior. This change is something that happens throughout our lives. Ask him to help you see if you are hovering at the gate with repentance, and if you need to grow in conversion. Ask him what you can surrender to him so that it might be more purified. Thank him for his willingness to show you the way, and ask him to help you shed all that holds you back.
Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P.