By September 1, 2015 0 Comments More Information →

Seek the Baptism of Fire

By Father Michael Becker –

How many of you push the snooze button regularly when the alarm goes off?

Elijah (from the first Reading, Aug. 9, see pg. 2) is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. He’s a prophet of fire who does amazing things. He controls the weather. He took on 450 prophets of Baal, no problem. He lived off miraculous food. But there’s something about him and fire. The New Testament says that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire. We have the Baptism in water, but Jesus also talks about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit typically comes through laying on of hands and prayers, and the person is seeking that and hungering for it, and with that comes charisms or gifts. But there is a third, and that is the Baptism of fire. They are meant to be an unfolding, one leading to the other, and there are certain characteristics of each.

A Baptism that Consumes and Purifies

Baptism of water is about cleansing; Baptism of the Holy Spirit is about filling where the Holy Spirit’s presence dawns within a very effective way and the person feels the presence, and it grows over time. Baptism of fire is about consuming. It consumes away everything that hinders perfect union with God. And the fire uses external and internal means. It eradicates fear, lust, immoderate anger, speech that is impure or unholy or overly righteous, divisions in relationships and brings reconciliation. The fire is consuming. When the saint enters into the baptism of fire, this is what happens: They begin to long to live a more ascetical life, giving up sacrifices daily, not just once a week. Saint Theresa of Lisieux made thousands of sacrifices, given every month, because love was the motive and fire that burned within took everything away that hindered her from perfect union.

Elijah is a prophet of fire and he’s the one who reveals the Baptism of fire that Jesus is going to give later because Elijah lives it in the Old Testament. When he calls down fire on Mt. Carmel to consume the offering in the passage with the 450 prophets of Baal, he says, let’s see who’s god is the real God. The 450 prophets go around and slash themselves day and night, and Elijah is kind of taunting them, “Maybe your god is sleeping.” The Baal god doesn’t show up, but Elijah’s God, Yahweh, does. Elijah has them pour water on the offering three or four times, and then it is consumed in a heavenly burst of fire. Later Elijah calls down fire against a captain and company who were seeking a false god to heal the king. Elijah intercedes and calls down fire from heaven and they are obliterated.

Finally, the fire separates Elisha and Elijah, and Elijah goes up to Heaven in a whirlwind. He knows a lot about fire. He fasted 40 days on Mt. Horeb and lived off miraculous food. First God says I’m going to chastise the people for rebelling against me and brings famine to the land. But a raven comes twice a day to feed Elijah. This is a miraculous feeding. He drinks from the brook, and after the brook runs dry, he goes to a widow in Zarephath who is collecting sticks for her last meal. Elijah prophesies that the jar will not run dry until rain is sent upon the land. For a considerable time he lives off food miraculously provided in a jar that refills each day. In today’s first reading he has a moment of weakness. Jezebel is seeking him and trying to kill him. He goes off to the desert and asks the Lord to take his life now. An angel comes and gives him food and tells him to eat so he is strong enough to make the journey to Mt. Horeb—another miraculous feeding.

Elijah may be a good patron for us, for the baptism of fire. For those who want to be more purified, ask Elijah to pray for you. For those who want relationships restored and burn away everything that hinders us, ask Elijah to pray for you.

Do you push your snooze button? Elijah pushed the snooze button in today’s reading, because when the angel came and brought food, he got up, ate and drank, and went back to bed. Thank God the angel came back and said, “Get up and eat, it’s going to be a tough journey.” And so he did. Elijah had a remnant of fear in his life, and I think it was finally evaporated in the holocaust of fire when he ascended into Heaven.

I have fear. I pray it is annihilated in the baptism of fire. Let’s not push the snooze button when God asks us to do something and we feel uncomfortable. Maybe God is going to ask you to pray with somebody or share a word of knowledge with someone and you’re going to hesitate and push the snooze button. Ask the Holy Spirit now, what are you calling me to do? Is there some kind of ministry or act of charity or reconciliation He wants? Where am I pushing the snooze button, and now give me the courage to step forward.