John the Baptist came preaching the need for repentance. Why did those seeking him need to repent? They had justified themselves; their ancestry was enough for them to be righteous; they were the sons of Abraham after all. John, however, knew better. John knew that righteousness cannot be imputed simply by belonging to a group, but requires a real holiness that is visible by its fruits.
How then can we be justified? John knows the one who justifies is coming. John baptized so that those who came to him would repent. However, he knew that his Baptism was not enough. The one is coming, the Christ, who will Baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will burn away our impurities like chaff with unquenchable fire. For from the fall our souls are wounded and separated from God. But the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Baptism of Christ. It restores us so we might live in the divine nature. God’s sanctifying grace is His life within us.
Baptism is the beginning of our life in Christ, but the Holy Spirit has more to offer. He offers us other gifts. Isaiah tells us that when the Spirit is upon us we will receive Wisdom to direct affairs according to divine truths, Understanding to see what is necessary for eternal salvation, counsel to be directed by God, fortitude to do good and avoid evil, knowledge in faith and morals, and fear of the Lord so we may never separate from Him. The Holy Spirit begins to work upon us in our Baptism and is ratified in our Confirmation. Confirmation allows the gifts of the Spirit to work in us. Our relationship with Christ begins in the water but is forged in the fire of Confirmation.
Why does the Christ come to Baptize us in fire? Purely out of His love for us. He does not desire that any should perish. He restores our life in His Baptism and strengths us in our Confirmation. Thus, we might be encouraged and endure to the end as Paul writes to the Romans. The sign of Abraham, circumcision, is transformed into the sign of Baptism to confirm the promises to the patriarchs that God might be glorified in all the nations. Thus, God extends the promise He made to the Hebrews to encompass the entire world so that all might shelter in the promise of God’s mercy.
The Grace of Baptism encourages us and helps us to endure. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthen us in Confirmation. However, we still have a choice to make. Do we cooperate with God’s grace and live according to the light or do we reject Him and dwell in darkness? Do not let the great work that was began in your Baptism be in vain. We are, all of us, weak. We struggle and fall. Jesus, being a merciful Lord does not abandon us. He beckons you to reconcile with Him. Confess your sins and be restored. Jesus holds the door open, but only you can choose to enter through the narrow gate. You are born again in Baptism, strengthened by your Confirmation, and healed by Reconciliation.
Isaiah saw that a shoot from the stump of Jesse would come. He foresaw that He would bestow the gifts of the Spirit. He knew that He would judge with right judgement. John, some 700 years later, predicted the Christ would come to clear the threshing floor. Jesus comes to judge, both to gather the righteous and reject the chaff. Since that day, when the Christ of Isaiah and John came, all the nations have sought Him and His dwelling is glorious.
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.
Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another,
in keeping with Christ Jesus,
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles and sing praises to your name.
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel's hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."