I’ve you’ve ever seen The Matrix, starring the exceptionally talented Keanu Reeves, you’ll remember early in the movie that Neo’s phone is frequently ringing. And, these aren’t ordinary phone calls; ultimately, Neo’s being “called” to save the human race.
What a purpose, what a mission! Neo’s called to liberate mankind from the matrix, a kind of beast like the one Daniel the prophet dreams about and later confronts in the Persian Empire, a behemoth that enslaves people by keeping them ignorant of the truth.
This kind of ignorance was also addressed by Plato in “The Republic,” where shadows cast on the walls of a cave are like the only things most people see in this world, phantoms of the truth. Outside the cave, things exist as they truly are.
Is it possible that priests who answer Jesus’ call, following closely in His footsteps, focusing their entire lives on saving souls through administering sacraments and teaching about the Truth, are weakened because they must work within 501c3 status, a status that prevents them from commenting, either positively or negatively, on political candidates? Is it possible that this status “quenches” the fire that Jesus’ baptism engenders?
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” –St. John the Baptist
If you’re familiar with the Good News that men and women are more than matter, that we all have an eternal soul, that there is a Judgment Day and that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead… you might also recall that St. John the Baptist was beheaded for speaking out against a political ruler of his day, Herod Antipas. In essence, John called upon Herod Antipas to repent of adultery, i.e. to repent of the affair he had with his sister-in-law, Herodias, who he eventually married after divorcing his first wife.
What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire?
There are several explanations. According to 1GotQuestions.org:
Some interpret the baptism of fire as referring to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2-3). It is important to note that these were tongues as of fire, not literal fire.
Some believe that the baptism with fire refers to the Holy Spirit’s office as the energizer of the believer’s service, and the purifier of evil within, because of the exhortation “Do not quench the Spirit” found in1Thessalonians 5:19. The command to the believer is to not put out the Spirit’s fire by suppressing His ministry.
A third and more likely interpretation is that the baptism of fire refers to judgment. In all four Gospel passages mentioned above, Mark and John speak of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but only Matthew and Luke mention the baptism with fire. The immediate context of Matthew and Luke is judgment (Matthew 3:7-12; Luke 3: 7-17). The context of Mark and John is not (Mark 1:1-8; John 1:29-34). We know that the Lord Jesus is coming in flaming fire to judge those who do not know God (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; John 5:21-23; Revelation 20:11-15), but praise be to God that He will save all that will come and put their trust in Him (John 3:16)!
This latter explanation appears further supported vis-à-vis several Scripture versus: 2
“But he knoweth my way, and has tried me as gold that passeth through the fire” (Job 23:10)
“And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined: and I will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name, and I will hear them. I will say: Thou art my people: and they shall say: The Lord is my God.” (Zacharias 13:9)
“As silver is tried by fire, and gold in the furnace: so the Lord trieth the hearts.” (Prov. 17:3)
“That the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7)
“For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.” (Eccl. 2:5)
“Many shall be chosen, and made white, and shall be tried as fire” (Daniel 12:10)
As baptized Christians, we’re called to be Priests, Prophets and Kings.3 Moreover, we’re called to herald the Kingdom of God on earth. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
897 “The term ‘laity’ is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church. That is, the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God, are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World.”4
898 “By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. . . . It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and may be to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer.”5
899 The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. This initiative is a normal element of the life of the Church:
Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church.6
900 Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it.7
It’s interesting that at the end of the Matrix trilogy, Neo flies triumphantly into the sky. It reminds me of how Padre Pio is known to have bilocated, i.e. to be able to be in two places at once. This is a funny connection, but it comes in light of a dream I had last night, one where I was flying around a gigantic apartment complex trying to find where I had parked a white shuttle van I seemed to have rented. I made the connection because, for the first time in a dream, I was able to be in two places at once. It seems as though I’m gaining “supernatural” abilities in my dreams –I can be invisible when wanting to go undetected; I can pass through walls.
At any rate, while I was at the front desk trying to find a map of the complex (to no avail I might add (something was fishy about this complex, which I eventually exposed at the end of the dream)), I met a nice looking blond. After having exchanged a few words with her, we kissed. Wow… talk about a fast pace! However, since I was on a mission to find this shuttle, and not wanting to leave her, I managed to divide myself and continue listening to her talk while I also continued flying around this mega-apartment complex. Sadly, I don’t remember anything she talked about.
But, I digress… an example of Padre Pio that I remember reading about, where he bilocated, involved hearing a confession of a young lady who was visiting Rome. She became very discouraged because she couldn’t find an available priest to hear her confession. Later, she found out it was Padre Pio –he introduced himself when she finally visited San Giovanni Rotondo. He stated that he had first met her in Rome and heard her confession, though he had never “actually” left San Giovanni Rontondo during the time he heard her confession. Of course, there are other examples of this phenomenon in the life of Padre Pio, some of which can be found in the little booklet, “Padre Pio: A Holy Priest”, by Jim Gallagher.
It’s interesting for me to consider answering a call to be a priest in light of a fiery baptism. On one had, it would be an exceptional way to serve, to be “the hands and feet” of Christ on earth. And yet, I can’t help wondering if it would also stifle a ministry, a fiery one where I’d have greater freedom in being able to endorse or refute a political candidate, one that may help or hinder the establishment of God’s Kingdom, here and now.
Blessed Mother, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
Padre Pio, pray for us.
- http://www.gotquestions.org/baptism-fire.html (accessed 11/26)
- http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=406730 (accessed 11/26)
- http://lifeissacred.net/Testimonies_.html (accessed 11/26)
- LG 31.
- LG 31 § 2.
- Pius XII, Discourse, February 20, 1946:AAS 38 (1946) 149; quoted by John
Paul II, CL 9.
- LG 33.Image source: http://propheticwind.ning.com/profiles/blogs/tongues-our-heavenly-language