On this feast of the Baptism of the Lord we read the story of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as told by St. Luke.
John the Baptist makes it clear that he is not the messiah. He says “I only baptise with water but He, the messiah, will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire”. This, of course, is a reference to the gift of the Spirit which St Luke writes about in his other book, The Acts of the Apostles. In this second story, St. Luke speaks about the coming of the Spirit on the disciples of Jesus in terms of “fire”.
We Australians are very familiar with the significance of fire. The recent bush fires are a powerful reminder of the power of fire. Fire spreads across our land, jumping from tree top to tree top, spreading out across the bush on a front miles wide. Fire travels where it wills. It has an energy and force that is all embracing.
This image of fire is used here in St. Luke’s gospel to help us to understand the power and strength of God’s gift to the human family. This gift is Jesus Christ. It is a powerful gift that is capable of embracing every person.
Jesus is a human person yet, at the same time, mass with anointing of the sick and He is the life of God. Hence every human being is embraced by God’s life. Symbolically this is a baptism so powerful that we are incapable of understanding it – yet we are swept up in this powerful, all-embracing gift of God’s love.
Today is a day to give thanks for our gift of faith. Our own personal baptism is all embracing and it is a baptism which has changed us forever. We pray that the flame of faith that has embraced each and every one of us will never be quenched.