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This coming Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the day commemorating Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. On this day, the Christmas season officially comes to an end within the Church (insert sad trombones). On Monday we enter back into Ordinary Time. Ordinary times can sometimes require extra-ordinary measures, can’t they? Thankfully, there’s a line in this Sunday’s Gospel reading that, when truly understood and freely received, has the power to spiritually set our hearts afire.
In Luke 3:16 we hear John the Baptist proclaim: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
It’s that last line, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire that has my attention. It’s one of the few themes written about in all four Gospels. But what does it mean to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire? I’d venture a guess that when many of us think about baptism, we have visions, rightly so, of being washed clean by the water.
I have become intimately more familiar with being baptized in the Holy Spirit thanks to “The Wild Goose” study series. The study focuses on discovering a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. During one lesson a question was posed to the participants: Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire? Now I have been sacramentally baptized, but baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire? Hmmm, I wasn’t sure how to answer.
To get to the heart of that question, I think we must pose a different question first. How is it possible for a person who has received the sacraments to not be living a dynamic life of faith? It happens, and I can testify to it. Many of us can get stuck in our faith with no sense of movement, no sense of life. St. Thomas Aquinas says in these situations we have experienced the sacraments validly, but the grace of the sacrament is asleep. He says there needs to be a second sending or a resending that awakens and releases the graces given to us at baptism, confirmation, and every time we receive the Eucharist. This resending is at the heart of what’s happening with baptism in the Holy Spirit. It’s an awakening of those sacramental graces. And it’s not something that just happens once; it happens again and again.
Being baptized in the Holy Spirit has helped me understand more fully that God’s love is personal and unconditional, that I have greater power in the Holy Spirit — power over fear, over sin, over my past mistakes, and power in the spiritual life. This is what baptism in the Holy Spirit does. Oh, and what a glorious gift that is because how in the world can we do the work of Jesus if we don’t have that power of Jesus in us?
So how do we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit? We must ask for it. The Baptism of the Lord this Sunday is a natural opportunity to invite the Holy Sprit into our hearts, to immerse ourselves and allow the Spirit to work within us like we’ve never experienced or imagined.
Here’s how The Wild Goose encourages us to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit:
Find a time and place where you can quiet yourself. Spend some time letting go of things that may be troubling you and causing anxiety. One by one, give them to the Lord. If it’s helpful, write your concerns and anxieties down on paper. Take your time and be patient; there is no hurry.
When you feel it is time, ask God to send his Holy Spirit upon you, to baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. Lord, baptize me in the Holy Spirit. Be open to experiencing God’s love, peace, closeness, and possibly forgiveness. Let the spirit of God overshadow you.
The power and grace that comes from the baptism in the Holy Spirit changes lives. It is a transforming grace bringing about freedom, peace, and the very presence of God.
|Lisa Schmidt has a heart for building community. With a Bachelor of Family Services and Master of Public Administration, her career has been devoted to improving the quality of life for others. Currently on hiatus from the professional workforce to care for the needs of her family, Lisa has become steadily immersed in freelance work through writing, speaking, and founding The Well women’s ministry. Along with her husband Deacon Joel and their four children, the Schmidts are parishioners at St. Pius X in Urbandale, Iowa.