Daily Reflection – Dec 4, 2016
Sunday 4 December 2016
First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever
Psalm 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:1-12
Today’s Note: Second Sunday of Advent
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
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.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)
In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
In this verse, Paul is saying that at our baptism, we are “buried” with Jesus and then “raised” to a new life with him. He tells us that the outward signs of baptism—water, oil, light, a white robe—are intricately tied to the inward work of regeneration that God does in everyone at their baptism. Each of us becomes “dead to sin and living for God” (Romans 6:11).
In today’s Gospel passage, John the Baptist talks about baptism as well. Only here he is saying that Jesus has come to baptize us not with water, but “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). So what’s the difference?
Water baptism washes us from original sin and brings us into a new relationship with God. Baptism “in the Spirit” is what happened to the apostles on Pentecost, when they were filled with the power and boldness of God. They were baptized—immersed or plunged—into the life of the Holy Spirit, who then worked his wonders in them and through them, just as he wants to do for us.
Scripture tells us that our God is a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17; Isaiah 33:14; Hebrews 12:29). This baptism by the Spirit and fire is God’s way of setting a fire in our hearts so that we will want to go out and share his love. It’s his way of making us more like Jesus, who wanted to please the Father in everything he said and did. It’s his way of building his Church—by empowering his people to do the works that Jesus did. What an honor to receive the Spirit this way!
“Holy Spirit, come and purify me. Set my heart on fire so that I can be your witness today.”