There is Only One Baptism

 

Monday May 24, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Seventh Week of Easter

Reading (Acts 19:1-8)  Gospel (St. John 16:29-33)

 

As the Church prepares us for the feast of Pentecost, She gives us a number of readings regarding the Holy Spirit. We hear, for instance, about these early disciples from Ephesus who had been baptized in the baptism of John but had not been baptized with the Trinitarian baptism. From the text, it appears that perhaps even from early on some of the disciples were not baptizing with the Trinitarian formula but rather in the Name of Jesus and then laying hands on people for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Regardless, it was a recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit as Saint Paul asks specifically whether or not these people had received the Holy Spirit. They had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit. And so as they received the Holy Spirit, the power of God began to work in them in a new way.

 

Now for most of us, who were baptized when we were infants, the Holy Spirit has been there – as well as the Father and the Son – right from the very beginning of our lives. Therefore, we have not necessarily seen extraordinary things, and that is because there was not a change later on in life where we would be able to say, “Now I have the Holy Spirit.” One of the unfortunate things that has happened in our own day is that we have all these people who want to talk about being baptized in the Holy Spirit. They have already been baptized in the Holy Spirit; that was part of their baptism when they were infants – it was in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There is no new baptism that takes place; there is not a baptism in the Holy Spirit. One can certainly experience an outpouring of the Holy Spirit when one opens the heart to be able to receive the Holy Spirit, but we need to be very clear that there is not a separate baptism that is taking place. There is not anything new that is happening; that is, there is nothing new that the person is receiving because the Holy Spirit in His fullness is already there. It may be that we will open our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit in a different way, in a more complete way. Not that the Holy Spirit was not there in His fullness, but rather our hearts were not open to allow Him to work within us. If that is the case, we may see something happening. But to be suggesting that we have now received something that we did not already have is completely fallacious.

 

What we need to do is simply pray for the grace to open our hearts to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, to open our hearts and our minds to accept the fullness of truth and to be able to live it. We see, for instance, in the Gospel reading, that the apostles, before they had the Holy Spirit, were telling Jesus that they now believed. After all this time, here they are now at the Last Supper, and they tell the Lord, “Now we believe.” The Lord looks at them and says, “Do you really? The hour is coming and in fact has now arrived when all of you are going to scatter and leave Me alone,” telling them that they really do not believe. They have an idea in their mind of what the truth is, but it has not sunken in. Well, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit not only is the mind made clear to be able to accept the truth and to understand it, but the will at the same time is also purified so that we will be able to embrace that truth and put it into practice. It strengthens us, as it did the apostles, to not only have the truth in our minds, but to have the grace to stand up and be counted as one who lives that truth. Even if they believed in the fullness of the truth at the Last Supper, we know that they all abandoned the Lord. Yet, after they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they had the courage to stand before everybody in Jerusalem and preach in the Name of the Lord where even just hours before they were locked in an upper room because of fear.

 

So we see the transformation that takes place when we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit, the transformation that took place in them because they now had the Holy Spirit. But, in us, it is a matter of opening our hearts to be able to conform ourselves to the grace of God and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, sadly, in the prayer lives of many of us, is probably forgotten. We pray to Jesus, we pray to the Father, but we forget all about the Holy Spirit. He is God. He is wholly God; He is not an add-on; He is not an afterthought. He is God from all eternity, and He has been given unto us to sanctify us, to strengthen us, to give us clarity of mind and will, and to lead us to the Lord. Without the Holy Spirit we are lost. We need the Holy Spirit; we are dependent on Him even if we do not recognize it. He has been given to us at the moment of baptism. He has been there always throughout our lives, but perhaps it is time now in a special way that we will call to mind the reality of the Holy Spirit being with us and that we will ask His help, that we will seek His guidance and His direction for the very purpose for which He was given: to lead us into all truth – that truth being Jesus Christ – and therefore to lead us not only to accept the truth but to live the truth in the fullness of the grace of God.

 

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.