|Depicting the Baptism of Jesus by John at the Jordan River|
Friday, 26 June 2015
Baptising with Fire: The Call to Be New John the Baptist's
What can we learn from John, this John who is called ‘the Baptist’? What mystical insights can we draw from this greatest figure of the Old Testament in the Era of Creation, and this herald of the New Testament in the Era of Redemption? There are many lessons we can learn but let us ponder only a few of these. John is he who made the barren womb a fruitful womb, the ruined and desolate city a place of habitation, and the dry wasteland a lush meadow. John was the means, the chosen instrument of God to turn the tables, to start a new day, to welcome the dawn of Redemption and to prepare the way for the Most High. John cleared a path through the tickets so that Israel could walk with ease to its Saviour. John set the table for the bride and the Bridegroom. John tilled the soil and thus made it ready for the seed of the Sacred Sower. John was the gateway to the Kingdom of God; a gateway set before men at his birth and opened by the shedding of his blood in martyrdom. Did the Good Lord, our Beloved Redeemer, need this preparation work to be done for Him? Could He not have found another means of readying His people to receive Him? Could He not have forgone the bother of having the way be prepared? Sure, most certainly, because Christ being the Eternal and All Powerful God did not need John by necessity; but the fact of the matter is this: God willed John to be and to act as His herald and best man (Jn 3:29), and in this sense John was necessary, very necessary. Since God wanted John; and even though he was unworthy to untie the sandals of Christ, in Christ he was worthy to tie and put on the sandal of hope upon the feet of Israel.
Are we not all like John? Especially we who are privileged to implicitly or explicitly know about the great grace of living in the Divine Will? It’s true, we are nothing, and we cannot achieve any good by ourselves; but like John we are called to point to Christ –to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29). That Lamb who is the Eucharist. That Lamb which dwells in each and every heart, waiting to be cuddled and fed. That Lamb who speaks to us as the guiding Shepherd through mother nature: through every plant, stone and creature on earth. That Lamb who yearns to be honoured in our fellow brother and sister. That Lamb whose tender flesh can be tasted in every letter and word of Scripture. That Lamb whose roasted aroma can be smelt in Sacred Tradition, and in the Magisterial teachings of Holy Mother Church. That Lamb whose revitalising Blood flows forth into the seven streams of the Sacraments –the Eucharist being the source of all the other six. That Lamb whose pure white fleece of righteousness inherited from the grace in the Virginal Ewe, we can don and put on, so that in Him we can say: “I am perfect, I am holy.” That Lamb whose Precious Blood is the New Wine of the Kingdom of Divine Will; that sweet, tantalizing beverage that makes us drunk in the Spirit of freedom and love. That Lamb whom we are called to consume in a Sacred Passover in each and every moment through desire. For yea, the more we feast on this Meat of the Divine Will, the smaller we become and the greater He becomes within us. Not only this, but we begin to see all other people as better than us in every way, with each and every mouthful of desire.
This then reveals to us the secret of holiness. Yet before we rush ahead to speak of this secret, we must first consider in what does holiness consist? Love of God and love of neighbour for the sake of God. Now what is this secret which leads to holiness, to the very heights of sanctity in the Will of the Ancient of Days? Desire and thanksgiving. Desire, because by desiring the flesh of the Lamb in our every word, thought and deed, we are spiritually nourished from this perpetual feast of desire; we mystically nourish all men and all their acts with the Life of this Lamb –the Divine Will – from Adam to the last man; and we also give delight and nourishment to our Father who absolutely loves to be served this delicious meal from His little one’s bellow. And thanksgiving, because it is an essential and necessary accompaniment to any feast, especially to this perpetual, intimate, Eucharistic, Divine Will, and Trinitarian Feast enjoyed between creature and Creator.
However this desire and thanksgiving cannot be conjured up by ourselves, and we’d be wasting our time if we tried. For truly this desire is the Holy Spirit, and this thanksgiving is the Holy Spirit; and we must only allow Him with Mary’s docility –which we must make our own – to flow through us, and to operate in, with and through us. Meanwhile we must simply lend the unique fragrance of our little fiat to this Beautiful Breeze of Eternal Desire and Infinite Thanksgiving. O yes, this is why we are like John the Baptists; for we can only baptise with the water of our will’s desire and thanksgiving, whilst Christ Jesus the Lamb of God alone can and does baptise with the fire of the Holy Spirit, which is the Fire of the Divine Will’s Desire and Thanksgiving. For we can only moisten all our actions and prayers with this imperfect baptism of our own will; whilst Christ can inflame all our actions and prayers with the perfect baptism of the Divine Will –a baptism which is the deepest fulfillment and immersion into one’s sacramental baptism.
Thus as God spoke to John, so too does God speak to us, saying: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:33b). We know who this is, He on whom the Spirit eternally descended upon and remained upon; so let us be bold enough to baptise Christ with our human will and with its feeble desires and thanksgiving. For yes like John we can say: “I need to be baptised by you, and yet you come to me?” (Mt 3:4), and indeed with such sentiments of timidity, we can and often do, prevent God’s Will coming to fruition within us. But as Jesus said to John, so too He says to us: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15). For unless we let Christ Jesus immerse into the river of our will, we will not possess Him – the fullness of righteousness - within us; we will never arrive at perfect sanctity, and thus we will neglect to give God perfect glory. So then let us baptise, that is immerse Jesus in our will, and in this way as New John the Baptist’s we –or rather Christ in us – will be able to baptise every man –from Adam to the last man, including all human acts that ever were, are and shall be – with the Fire of the Holy Spirit; thus investing them with eternal Desire, Thanksgiving and Love, so that they give perfect glory to God. This Holy Flame of Love will roast the Lamb of God anew in all things, and will therefore repeat and intensify the delight of the Father who loves the Sacred Meat of His dear Son. Thus whilst John the Baptist baptised with water; we in Christ baptise with Fire. How profound and beautiful is this blessed truth? Thus whilst John did say: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30); we in the Spirit, by the pure and total faith of the Immaculate Bride can say: “He has increased, and I have disappeared, for ‘it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.’” (Gal 2:20).