“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.” – Mt 3:11
I did something nice for people in the past two days, which involved a sacrifice of time and energy. Yet, as I reflected afterwards, there emerged a greater invitation. I noticed that while I did it out of love for God and others, I felt more invited to “do with” and to “be with.” By contrast, being with my cousin Thy, her husband and two young boys, and our extended family during the last week of her life last December helped me to connect with God more. Even though there was more activity going on, I sensed myself being more present. I was “being with” beyond “doing for.”
Each Advent, the figure of John the Baptist calls us to prepare the way for someone greater in our lives. The repentance or “metanoia” he proclaimed involved a “change of mind and heart.” It consists of letting go, getting rid of, or clearing away something so that something greater can take place. This shift of mind and heart allows God’s Spirit to be more present and active in our lives. It enables us to let “the spirit of the LORD rest upon [us]” (Is 61:2). We become people “with others” as well as “for others”. We become more present.
This call to a “change of mind and heart” can seem daunting, a kind of baptism by fire. Yet, it has already begun. While we may feel some fear or self-pressure, the good news is that it’s already happening beyond us. God’s Spirit wants to be with us, to rest in us. It takes our simple “yes.”
How might we be invited today to be more present to others, to ourselves, and let God’s Spirit rest in us?