The Word for 2nd Sunday of Advent: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120411.cfm
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Posted on 12/03/2011 7:46:25 PM PST by Salvation
December 4, 2011
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First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-8
Neither repentance avails without grace, nor grace without repentance; for repentance must first condemn sin, that grace may blot it out. So then John, who was a type of the law, came baptizing for repentance, while Christ came to offer grace.
St. Ambrose of Milan (ca. AD 380)
A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for December 4, 2011, the Second Sunday of Advent | Carl E. Olson
Is 40:1-5, 9-11
Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14
2 Pt 3:8-14
In my beginning is my end. This line opens East Coker, the second section of T.S. Eliots poetic masterpiece, Four Quartets. It is followed by a haunting, elegiac reflection on the fragile and transitory nature of life as seen in the cycle of life and death in nature. What is the meaning of our short lives? What hope is man given in this passing world? In whom shall we trust for our salvation?
These questions are always with us, but gain in poignancy during Advent. While the entire liturgical year is ultimately oriented toward all that is heavenly and everlasting, Advent is especially focused on the end of our earthly lives. And, just as Eliot indicated, the beginning points to The End, a fact presented by St. Mark in his direct, urgent style: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
More than a heading or title, this is a bold proclamation of the good news and joyful tidings of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the inspired declaration that the man Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, the anointed one. He has come to deliver his people from sin and death, and to establish the reign of God among men. This announcement is made within the Gospel of Mark by St. Peter, a Jew following in the footsteps of Jesus, (Mk 8:29), and by the centurion, a Gentile standing at the foot of the Cross. In this way, the universal nature of the new covenant is revealed and professed.
But the first announcement in Marks Gospel is from the lips of St. John the Baptist, the voice crying out in the desert. John is the last of the Old Testament prophets, but he is more than a prophet (Lk. 7:26), a mysterious figure whose strange physical appearance is coupled with a striking message: I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Ritual cleansing with water was not new to the Jews, but this baptism in the Jordan River was clearly meant to be different. The Jordan River, of course, was significant in its symbolism. The forty years of exodus in the wilderness had ended many hundreds of years earlier when Joshua led the Israelites across the river and into the promised land (Josh. 3). The Messiah, John indicated, is going to call the people to enter through water into a new promised land, a new Zion, a new Jerusalem.
This beginning, rooted in the Old Covenant, provides the grace and forgiveness necessary for the end, what is described by St. Peter as the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13). But this end is already present in the beginning. In the words of Eliot, Home is where one starts from. Baptism brings us home; it destroys sin, restores the divine life of God, and makes man a son of God. For just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, remarks the Catechism, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit (CCC 694). This is the comfort spoken of by Isaiah in todays first reading; it is the peace, truth, justice, and salvation desired by the Psalmist.
In listening to the cry of John the Baptist we hear the message of Advent: Prepare the way of the Lord by repenting of sin and embracing the divine life granted in baptism. Go to confession, spend additional time in prayer, and proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. By spending more time in prayer and contemplation, we open the way for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must be still and still moving, wrote Eliot of this spiritual purification, Into another intensity/For a further union, a deeper communion. And then we will recognize more deeply this truth, which concludes East Coker: In my end is my beginning.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the December 7, 2008, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
|English: Douay-Rheims||Latin: Vulgata Clementina||Greek NT: Byzantine/Majority Text (2000)|
|1.||THE beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.||Initium Evangelii Jesu Christi, Filii Dei.||αρχη του ευαγγελιου ιησου χριστου υιου του θεου|
|2.||As it is written in Isaias the prophet: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee.||Sicut scriptum est in Isaia propheta : Ecce ego mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui præparabit viam tuam ante te.||ως γεγραπται εν τοις προφηταις ιδου εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου προ προσωπου σου ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου εμπροσθεν σου|
|3.||A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.||Vox clamantis in deserto : Parate viam Domini, rectas facite semitas ejus.||φωνη βοωντος εν τη ερημω ετοιμασατε την οδον κυριου ευθειας ποιειτε τας τριβους αυτου|
|4.||John was in the desert baptizing, and preaching the baptism of penance, unto remission of sins.||Fuit Joannes in deserto baptizans, et prædicans baptismum pnitentiæ in remissionem peccatorum.||εγενετο ιωαννης βαπτιζων εν τη ερημω και κηρυσσων βαπτισμα μετανοιας εις αφεσιν αμαρτιων|
|5.||And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem, and were baptized by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.||Et egrediebatur ad eum omnis Judææ regio, et Jerosolymitæ universi, et baptizabantur ab illo in Jordanis flumine, confitentes peccata sua.||και εξεπορευετο προς αυτον πασα η ιουδαια χωρα και οι ιεροσολυμιται και εβαπτιζοντο παντες εν τω ιορδανη ποταμω υπ αυτου εξομολογουμενοι τας αμαρτιας αυτων|
|6.||And John was clothed with camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and he ate locusts and wild honey.||Et erat Joannes vestitus pilis cameli, et zona pellicea circa lumbos ejus, et locustas et mel silvestre edebat.||ην δε ο ιωαννης ενδεδυμενος τριχας καμηλου και ζωνην δερματινην περι την οσφυν αυτου και εσθιων ακριδας και μελι αγριον|
|7.||And he preached, saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.||Et prædicabat dicens : Venit fortior post me, cujus non sum dignus procumbens solvere corrigiam calceamentorum ejus.||και εκηρυσσεν λεγων ερχεται ο ισχυροτερος μου οπισω μου ου ουκ ειμι ικανος κυψας λυσαι τον ιμαντα των υποδηματων αυτου|
|8.||I have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.||Ego baptizavi vos aqua, ille vero baptizabit vos Spiritu Sancto.||εγω μεν εβαπτισα υμας εν υδατι αυτος δε βαπτισει υμας εν πνευματι αγιω|
Saints in Advent
We celebrate the Holy Mysteries on December 4th in the company of two saints, both of them lights from the East: Saint Barbara, Virgin and Martyr, and Saint John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church. Today I will remember at the altar the friends named Barbara whom God has placed in my life. Saint Barbara, according to the legend, was enclosed in a tower (some accounts say it was a bathhouse) by her pagan father. There were two windows in this improvised prison cell.
Taking advantage of her father's temporary absence, Barbara instructed the servants to make a third window in honour of the Most Holy Trinity. The light poured into Barbara's cell from three windows; her soul, meanwhile, was flooded by what Saint Benedict calls "the deifying light" of the Three Divine Persons. Thus was Saint Barbara found "vigilant in prayer and joyful in singing the divine praises" at the hour of her martyrdom. I can only imagine Saint Barbara praying, in her solitude, the sublime prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, O My God, Trinity Whom I Adore.
God is Light
In this, Saint Barbara speaks to all who feel hemmed in and imprisoned by the circumstances of life. To all who feel shut in and imprisoned, to all who live behind walls, Saint Barbara says, "Lift your eyes to the light of the Most Holy Trinity. Let the glorious radiance of the Three Divine Persons shine in your solitude." Her message is that of Saint Paul who says, "Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you shall appear with Him in glory" (Col 3:2-4). Her message is that of the Apostle John: "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness" (1 Jn 1:5).
At the Door
Captivity became for Saint Barbara a time of "eager anticipation" for the advent of Christ her Bridegroom. Today's Collect would have us await the advent of Christ, "untainted by the contagion of our former ways," and already "consoled by the presence of Him who is to come," in such wise that waiting becomes the adoration of His Face. Then when Christ knocks at the door, He will find us turned toward Him, vigilant in prayer, and joyful in singing His praises. "Behold," He says, "I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Ap 3:20).
The Orbit Determined By Christ
At the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love--a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi
Until the Stars in Welcome Sing
This is my homespun translation of the seventh century hymn for Vespers in Advent: Conditor Alme Siderum. (John Mason Neale's translation is far superior to mine. Read it and hear the ancient syllabic melody here.) When Advent rolls round and I sing this hymn in Latin or in English translation, I see in my mind's eye Van Gogh's Starry Night. In the little church with the tall steeple at the bottom of the painting there must be a lingering scent of incense. Advent Vespers will have been sung. The Creator of the Starry Night is glorified.
O Light unconquered, Source of Light,
Whose radiance kindles stars and sun,
Shine tenderly on us this night;
Creation groans until you come.
Immense your grief to see our plight:
When sin had shrouded all, you came.
True Dayspring bursting death's dark bands,
Emmanuel, your saving name!
Night weighed upon a weary world
When silently you pitched your tent,
Enclosed within the Virgin's womb
True man, true God from heaven sent.
So to the darkened world in need,
Eternal Word, you came as man.
You came as Bridegroom, swift and strong,
To claim the prize the course you ran.
Until your glory fills the skies,
Until the stars in welcome sing,
Until you judge both small and great,
From sin, protect us, Sovereign King.
To God the Father, God the Son,
To God the Spirit ever be
Glad songs of praise throughout the night
While faith adores the mystery. Amen.
|Preparing for Christmas|
Second Sunday of Advent (December 4, 2011).
December 4, 2011
Mark 1: 1-8
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you have given me a new day. You have given me a new opportunity to prepare myself for your coming. I believe that you will be with me as I continue my preparation for your coming. My heart is too often divided and pulled in many directions, but I wish to set my heart totally on you so that I may love you above all else. Here I am, Lord, to know you and love you more.
Petition: Lord, help me to embrace the proper means to prepare myself for your birth.
1. Johns Preparation: John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey. He wore a camels skin and lived in the desert. In this manner he prepared himself for Christs coming. He had removed himself from the world and all its temptations. He had forfeited his home, family, friends, money, foodanything that would take him from fulfilling his call to prepare the way of the Lord. Compared with John, how deep is my commitment? What price am I prepared to pay to be his messenger?
2. Johns Preaching: John invites sinners to repentance. Thousands flock to hear him. His words move the people to listen. Probably more so does his example: the people see him living in the desert without the comforts of the world. By his actions they see he is truly a prophet. He has come before them so he can rightly call them to conversion. His life has strength and meaning that is not found in others. If we could be authentic and lead by our example, how many more people would be moved to follow Christ!
3. Johns Repentance: Those who recognize their sins go to John to be baptized. For John, baptism is a symbol of repentance: the people recognize their sins and ask God for forgiveness. John knows that he cannot forgive sins, but he realizes that it is important for everyone to take the step of being sorry and asking God to forgive them. John tells us clearly that it is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who will forgive sins. He doesnt try to obtain forgiveness in another way. He doesnt try to circumvent Gods plan. God has given us the sacrament of confession for the forgiveness of our sins. How often do I take advantage of it? Am I faithful to frequent confession, or perhaps do I look elsewhere for the grace that only comes from confession?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, often I fall into the ways of the world, letting myself get caught up in its comforts and vanities. Teach me that only one thing matters: you and the life you promised us. Help me to use this Advent to prepare for your coming by detaching myself from the ways of the world and by being an example of Christian living for those whom I encounter. Help me to be always faithful to my frequent confession.
Resolution: Today I will make a sacrifice, foregoing a comfort or something I really like, and offer it up to God in reparation for sinsespecially my own.
December 4th, 2011 by Food For Thought
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm: Psalm 85:9-14
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
Advent is not Christmas. It is a season uniquely its own, very much like Lent. Each day of Advent has its own proper Mass, pertinent readings, antiphons, and responses. It is four weeks of celebration and preparation weeks that focus on the past, the present, and the future: Christ has come, Christ is here, and Christ will come again. It is a glorious crescendo increasing in power and intensity until it climaxes on a midnight outshone only by an Easter Sunday.
On the other hand, for most of us, Advent is no big deal. And how could it be otherwise? How can you make a big deal out of Advent, when you have a full-time job, a family to feed, your favorite ball games and tele-novela to watch? How can you concentrate on Christ, when every commercial seduces you with gifts that seem far more necessary for human living from reducing pills, breast enhancement pills, and the latest fads through TV and internet, to fruitcakes, ham, and castañas, to Asti and Chivas Regal. Time enough to celebrate Christ only, when Midnight Mass comes around.
So, how can we break through these barriers? in a practical way, a laypersons way? I suggest for this Sunday, let Mary be your Advent Guide. Perhaps three sentences from Scripture from St. Lukes Gospel might bring fresh meaning to your Advent without much pain and paranoia.
First, a sentence in Luke after the shepherds have hurried to the stable to pay homage to the Savior Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. As previously, the angel in Nazareth, so here before the shepherds in Bethlehem, Mary was puzzled. She had to ask herself what all this, what each incident might mean: conceiving a child without the benefit of a human father, giving birth to the Son of the Most High in a manger, later fleeing like a refugee to Egypt, watching helplessly as her Son moved firmly toward the death he predicted. She had to wrestle with all these happenings.
And so for you and me, my first Advent suggestion: Take 15 minutes out of each day to ponder, to reflect, to puzzle over, to wrestle with what the Lord has told you about His Son-made-man, a reverent pondering each day over the overwhelming affirmation in John: God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should have eternal life; pondering over a Son of God, who chose to take our human flesh, become what we are, experience our fragile human existence, die our death.
What does it mean to you and me? What child is this? In your day to day living, is Jesus Christ real to you as your ninong and ninang, as Michael Jordan, Shaq ONeil, Gloria Macapagal, George Bush, Osama Bin Ladin, the Abu Sayyaf, as the man or woman you love? Let the image of Jesus, Son of God in swaddling clothes; trigger your thinking about him, about you, about the other people touching your life or those whose life you touch.
And at some point stop thinking! Just gaze and contemplate. Have a long loving look at Jesus. Dont analyze. Just feel the scene. Picture yourself kneeling at Bethlehems crib, become a child again, touch little toes as real as any infants, let naked reason disappear, let Christ simply be! Just look and love.
Fifteen minutes a day on the event that changed history forever, the puzzle of puzzles. Let your beeper, your cell phones, your CD sit in silence; let your stereo and karaoke wait. For 15 minutes let the rest of the world go by; let the rest of the world make sense in Christ.
Second, a sentence in Luke after the angel departed: In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. The point is: What did this teen-age Jewish girl do when the angel left her left her with Gods Son in her body? She did not sit down to plan what hospital to book to deliver her baby, or who should be her doctor, or how to notify her friends and relatives, what kind of party to have.
The Gospel tells us that Mary heard from Gabriel that her cousin, Elizabeth was six months pregnant. And Elizabeth was old, and advanced in years. What did Mary do? She went with haste to visit Elizabeth, walked briskly to a town in the hill country of Judea, walked perhaps 67 miles. Not to spread her own good news, not to compare child with Elizabeth, not to rave over my son, the Messiah. She went simply to help for three full months, till Elizabeths child was born.
As soon as Mary greeted her kinswoman, the Gospel tells us little John the Baptist leaped in [Elizabeth's] womb leaped for joy, leaped at the coming of Christ, sensed miraculously the presence of Gods Son in Marys womb.
And so for you and me Contemplation is good focusing mind and heart on a Christ who walks the earth no longer. But Advent with Mary calls contemplation to action focusing mind and heart on a Christ, who is still moving from Bethlehem to Calvary. Not far from you is a brother, a sister, akin to you in the bone of humanity and the blood of Christ, someone, who needs you, someone who hurts, someone, who finds it difficult or impossible to enjoy life, because life is cruel.
A short story writer, who died of lupus at 39 years, once wrote these words from her own incurable cross: You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other peoples sufferings and not your own. Do that, be that, come with your Christ, with your cross, to someone too poor, too naked, too sad, too crippled to joy in Christmas, and the miracle of Marys visitation will be repeated as it has been through the ages. The person you touch in love will leap for joy from the barren womb of sorrow. A 15- minute contemplation hasten to some hill Calvary what is left? Only the rest of your life.
The third Advent text about Mary stems from the public life of Jesus. A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, `Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you fed on. But he said, `Blessed rather are those who listen to the word of God and keep it!
Jesus was not denying that Mary was blessed in her bearing of him. Of course, she was. What the woman cried from the crowd was true but only part of the picture. St. Augustine expressed it powerfully, Mary was more blessed because she laid hold of faith in Christ than she conceived the flesh of Christ, Her motherly relationship to him would have been of no use to Mary had she not carried Christ in her heart more happily even than she bore him in her body. She conceived Christ in her mind before she conceived him in her womb. It was by faith she gave birth, it was by faith she conceived him.
In Lukes story, Mary is indeed to be praised simply because she gave birth to Jesus, but because she too listened to Gods word, believed it, acted on it from the glad tidings brought by Gabriel in Nazareth to the days in Jerusalem after Jesus ascension, when the apostles with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus That is why we see Mary most profoundly when we see her as the first Christian disciple, the model and pattern of Christian discipleship. She listened to what God was asking, and she said yes not only to the bliss of Bethlehem, but also to the sword that pierced her heart on Calvary.
And so for you and me, Advent, the coming of Christ, is not simply a season, four weeks out of your year. From contemplation to action You must face up to a fact at once frightening and encouraging: God is constantly speaking to you. Not too often through angel, more often through human events. Not only through the Ten Commandments etched in stone, but in a law of justice and love written into your flesh and spirit. Not only through a document from Rome, but in the sad starved eyes of children of the victims of calamities and wars that meet your eyes on the TV screen. Not only through the word of the Lord from the lectern, but in the grim silence of the homeless huddled in the kareton on the sidewalks. Not only through a pastoral letter on peace, but in the undeclared wars that divide the rich and the poor, male and female, ordained and lay, the powerful and the powerless. Tune in to the God within you and the world around you. Ponder puzzle over, what you hear. At some point say yes, even if what you hear is not all clear. Then, with the profound faith of a perplexed Mary, act do something carry Christ somewhere, to someone.
During Advent, we "prepare the way of the Lord" (Is 40:3) as we await His Christmas coming. Today, the Church proclaims that a major way to prepare is to repent. John the Baptizer could never be accused of dabbling in repentance. Anyone watching John live day after day in a hot, arid desert, wearing camel-hair shirts and eating grasshoppers (Mk 1:6), would conclude that John was committed to repentance. Anyone watching Jesus stretch out His hands to be nailed to the cross and then hang in crucified, excruciating agony would have to conclude that Jesus was committed to the forgiveness of sins. Look at a crucifix for a minute, and you can't come to any other conclusion but that Jesus was serious when He called us to repent and reform our lives (Mk 1:15). Do we merely dabble in repentance, or will we make a commitment to repent? Will our Advent Confession reflect our commitment to "make every effort to be found without stain or defilement" in utter holiness? (2 Pt 3:14) Jesus wants "all to come to repentance" (2 Pt 3:9). "Commit to the Lord your way" (Ps 37:5).
One Bread, One Body
<< Sunday, December 4, 2011 >>
Second Sunday of Advent
Saint of the Day
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
ARE YOU COMMITTED TO REPENTANCE?
During Advent, we "prepare the way of the Lord" (Is 40:3) as we await His Christmas coming. Today, the Church proclaims that a major way to prepare is to repent.
John the Baptizer could never be accused of dabbling in repentance. Anyone watching John live day after day in a hot, arid desert, wearing camel-hair shirts and eating grasshoppers (Mk 1:6), would conclude that John was committed to repentance.
Anyone watching Jesus stretch out His hands to be nailed to the cross and then hang in crucified, excruciating agony would have to conclude that Jesus was committed to the forgiveness of sins. Look at a crucifix for a minute, and you can't come to any other conclusion but that Jesus was serious when He called us to repent and reform our lives (Mk 1:15).
Do we merely dabble in repentance, or will we make a commitment to repent? Will our Advent Confession reflect our commitment to "make every effort to be found without stain or defilement" in utter holiness? (2 Pt 3:14) Jesus wants "all to come to repentance" (2 Pt 3:9). "Commit to the Lord your way" (Ps 37:5).
I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:8).
Matthew and Luke add: and with fire.
We ought to consider, What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire)? In the first place we must be careful to indicate, right from the beginning, that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not distinct, different, or later than our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. Rather it is the unfolding and deepening experience of what the Sacrament of Baptism (and Confirmation) have effected in us.
In a strictly theological sense, John the Baptist is distinguishing his Baptism, which was merely a washing that signified repentance, from the Baptism of Christ, which actually brings forgiveness and the bestows the very life of God, and all the graces of this new life to the believer. We are not merely washed of our sins in the Sacrament of Baptism, we are made new, and the seed of Gods very own life, love and grace are sown in us, to grow. We are actually sanctified and made new.
Some of the Fathers of the Church have this to say:
Theophylus The baptism of John had not remissions of sins, but only brought men to penitence. He preached therefore the baptism of repentance, that is, he preached that to which the baptism of penitence led, namely, remission of sins, that they who in penitence received Christ, might receive Him to the remission of their sins.
Jerome For what is the difference between water and the Holy Ghost, who was borne over the face of the waters? Water is the ministry of man; but the Spirit is ministered by God.
Bede Now we are baptized by the Lord in the Holy Ghost, not only when in the day of our baptism, we are washed in the fount of life, to the remission of our sins, but also daily by the grace of the same Spirit we are inflamed, to do those things which please God
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christs death, is buried with him, and rises with him: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4) The baptized have put on Christ. (Gal 3:27) Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies (1 Cor 6:11). Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the imperishable seed of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect. (CCC 1227-1228)
This quote from the Catechism then moves us beyond the merely Theological answer to the question, What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? and opens also, the experiential question: What is it like to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?
Experientially, It means knowing what we have received in Baptism and Confirmation. But here, knowing does not mean mere intellectual knowing (οἴδα odia in the Greek New Testament). Rather it means experiential knowing (γινώσκo ginosko in the Greek New Testament). It is one thing to know about God and to be able to pass a religion test. But to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit is to know the Lord, personally, deeply, intimately. It is to be in a life changing, transformative relationship with the Lord. It is experiential faith.
Too many people are satisfied with with living their faith by inference, rather than by experience. In other words, they are content to go along saying what they heard some one else say. Jesus is Lord and risen from the dead because my mother says so, or my preacher says so, (or even), the Bible says so. All of this is fine, for faith first comes by hearing. But there comes a point when YOU have to say so, because you personally know it to be true.
And this is what it means to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is to be able to say, In the laboratory of my own life I have tested the Word of God and found it to be true. I have personally met and know the Lord, I know Him for myself.
In other words, it is having faith come alive! Faith that is real, tested and certain. It is knowledge that is personal. It is to be a first hand witness to the power of Jesus Christ to change my life, for I am experiencing it in the laboratory of my very own life. He is changing and transforming me. I am seeing sins put to death and wonderful graces come alive. I am more serene, confident, loving, generous and chaste. I am more forgiving, patient, trusting and patient. I love the poor more, and I am less attached to this world. My prayer is becoming deeper as I sense his presence and power in my life. Yes, God is working in my life and He is real. This is my testimony. What is yours?
But this is what it means, experientially, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire).
And this is also at the heart of evangelization. How are you going to convert anybody if youre not convinced yourself? Parents, you want your kids to go to Church? Great, and proper. But why do you go? Because its Church law? Alright, fine, but shouldnt there be a deeper reason? To be Baptized with the Holy Spirit is to go to Mass and make the Christian walk because you know and love Jesus Christ yourself, and you want to bring your children into that living, powerful and life transforming experience of the Lord in prayer, the Mass, the Liturgy, and the Sacraments. Thats what youre after. And thats what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Pay attention to these word of St. John the Baptist. He, through the Holy Spirit, is teaching us about the normal Christian life, which is to be alive, joyful, confident, serene and thrilled at what God is doing in my life, at to know (not just know about) the Lord. I baptize you with water, BUT HE, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit And he will light a fire in your life, a fire that never dies away, but that grows in intensity as it transforms your very self.
Let he who has ears to hear, heed what the Spirit is saying. Baptism is not a tedious ritual, it is a transformative reality.
Photo Credit: Yousuf Karsh, 1962, The Books These are the Sacraments (By Bishop Fulton J Sheen).
Here is Father Francis Martin on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.