Dual baptism
GOD'S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. () - January 10, 2010 - 12:00am

Yes. Dual baptism is a must for all Christians who really want to become active, genuine Christians, and not just Christians in name. Today’s Gospel reading tells it all. John the Baptizer himself explicitly said: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Lk. 3: 15-16). And to show us the way, Jesus Himself asked John to baptize Him with water. After that, he prayed, and the Holy Spirit came to Him.

“After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’’’ (Lk. 3: 21-22). 

In other words, to be a son or daughter of God, it is not enough that one be baptized with water, either as a child or as an adult. The second and even more important baptism must take place, and this makes all the difference in one’s life as a Christian. What does this second baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire involve? A baptism of water by John is simply an initiation to a conversion of heart. A wake-up call, as it were. But this is not enough for a Christian to be a man of action. An initial call to a conversion of the heart must move to a conversion of the feet.

First of all, as the above-quoted Scriptural passage says, Jesus “was praying” before the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. And this praying does not mean just parroting back verbal and ritualistic prayer, but an inner, heartfelt awareness of one’s connectedness with God and a total dependence on Him, as well as an ongoing love-relationship with the Lord, discerning His will so that I may follow Him all the way. Now, this experience of praying is what is often lacking or missing in the lives of many baptized Christians. The first baptism of water is there all right, but the second baptism of the Holy Spirit is often not there.

No wonder our beloved Philippines is predominantly Christian in name, but graft and corruption is rampant in various forms. Majority of our people are baptized Christians, but how come we are where we are? More and more of us must learn how to pray as Jesus did, so that like Him, we may be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

It is now January 2010, just a few months before our national and local elections. What is God’s will for us as we discern in prayer? Whom would God want us to vote for? There is absolutely no doubt that God is missioning us to vote for candidates who are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, no matter what institutional religion or religious denomination they may belong to. There is only one God and Creator of all Filipinos. An interfaith, interreligious spirituality is what will unite us as God’s people.

But in order to discern whom to vote for, we, too, as voters must be baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire. In his New Year’s message addressed to all, Bishop Nereo Odchinar, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said in part:

“Institutions need change . . . 2010 in our political life is an election year. People, through the exercise of their right of suffrage will effect a power shift in the executive and legislative branches of our civil government. We must retain what is good, promote what still needs improvement and discard what is base and corrupt . . . Social transformation starts within ourselves. Election is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. Over and above the factors beyond our capacity, with great faith in God and in ourselves, we can still make our wish for a happy new year a reality.”

With God’s guidance, we will need prophetic leadership, and not just maintenance leadership. Prophetic leaders are those who take the risk and dare to reform what needs to be reformed, while maintenance leaders resist and oppose such needed reforms and hold on to the status quo.

The moral integrity and honesty of both our electoral candidates and our voters is of primary importance. In that very patriotic and practical little book, 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country, the author Alexander Lacson writes: “Honesty, more than anything, is what makes a good leader. It is the solid core of the character of every great leader in history . . . Honesty is the core of character, while character is the core of leadership. And leadership is the core of every success _ in every company’s success, in every team’s victory, and in every nation’s march to progress.”

Through our prayerful life of on-going discernment, let us humbly accept the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that will guide us in our coming, crucial elections. So help us, God.

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