Baptized by Fire
St. John the Baptist baptized with water, but the One who came after him would do so much more:
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. –Luke 3:16, NAB
In Mark 1:2-4, we are taught that someone would come ahead of the Messiah to “prepare the way of the Lord,” and in today’s verse (Luke 3:16), we see St. John the Baptist doing exactly that. His work in the desert was setting the stage for the message and work of Jesus Christ.
As Catholics, we quickly recognize St. John the Baptist’s water Baptism because it is one of the sacraments we continue to celebrate today. But how many recognize the Baptism by fire that he is speaking about?
We actually see a reflection of this in the Sacrament of Confirmation. At Confirmation, we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and we receive the Spirit’s special gifts. It completes the work that begins at our Baptism, just as the work of Christ completed the work that began with St. John the Baptist.
How are we baptized by fire? In Acts 2, we read about the story of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit appeared as “tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).” The disciples were receiving the Holy Spirit! This was the next step in God’s plan for our salvation. Christ redeemed us from our sins, and now, the Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit to be with us.
Our Baptism is an important part of our spiritual journey because it marks the beginning of our new life, but the Sacrament of Confirmation is equally important because it completes the work begun in our Baptism by sending us the Holy Spirit – we are baptized by fire. Together, these two sacraments are an important part of God’s will for our lives.