We’re all familiar with the story of John
the Baptist – his leap for joy when he first met Jesus
while both of them were still in the womb, his life in
the desert, his diet of locusts and wild honey, his role
as the forerunner of Jesus, even his beheading at the
order of Herod. Quite a story! He was anything but a
In the passage that is included here, we
get yet another picture of John. He is preaching. He has
a crowd of followers. And he is engaging them in the
baptism for repentance that was an historical practice
among the Jewish community.
In the middle of all this, he is at the
Jordan River, teaching and baptizing, all the while
pointing out that “the best is yet to come.” That best
is Jesus! He is also sending the message that Jesus will
transform baptism into the gift of faith, the gift of
the Holy Spirit, and the gift of fire. What a message!
It is that baptism that draws us to Jesus
and to the cross. While most of us don’t remember our
own baptism event, we do all know at least pieces of our
baptism story. And many of us remember that baptism as
we use water throughout our days. But we usually think
of water as a fire retardant or fire squelcher. So how
are we baptized with fire?
St. Paul talks about the fire of faith.
That’s the fire we received through baptism. It’s the
fire that draws each of us to the cross and helps us
understand the salvation Jesus earned for us through his
death on the cross.
It’s the fire of faith that also
encourages and emboldens us to talk to others and allow
them to also be drawn to the cross through the Holy