Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“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.”
After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
On the day of our Baptism, we were baptized "with the Holy Spirit and fire," as today's Gospel reminds us. These words evoke two thoughts in my humble mind. One is that we are continually reminded of that fire by the daily sufferings and purifications we all endure, some minor and some more tragic, all continually designed to remove sin from our spotted souls. The other is that if we were truly baptized with such powerful elements, how can we live each day with an awareness of these strengths in our souls?
In a new year, we are all optimistic. This is a gift of renewal for which I am grateful. We hope for a year of grace, a year filled with blessings and joyful memories. Nevertheless, we will encounter pain. There will be struggles, all designed to return our souls to their state on the day of our Baptism. Are we preparing for these? Are we hoping for these? Many of the saints asked the Lord to bless them with whatever suffering would best lead them to Him. Maybe the challenges of this year will be large or small, but I feel called to assure God that I will accept whatever He wills for the salvation of my soul. Will you join me in this difficult prayer?
The Holy Spirit has been described as a rushing wind or a raging fire. These are images that challenge me to examine the zeal in my heart for my faith and for my God and frown that I do not call upon His power more regularly. I am guessing I am not alone in the fact that my daily duties often control my thoughts to the unfortunate exclusion of doing them with the proper attitude and reflection on what should be driving my every word and action. When I am worthless and weak and even when I am on solid footing, I pledge to call upon this inner power and beg the Holy Spirit to lead me with every thought and deed.
Jesus Christ humbled himself to be baptized by John to demonstrate to us the importance of this sacrament. There is power in the grace we receive at Baptism, enough power that the skies can open, and God can declare, "You are my beloved Son[Daughter]; with you I am well pleased." I want that. Don't you?