Purification by the Fire of God

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Third Sunday of Advent

Saint Damasus I, Pope

John answered them all, saying, ”I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:16-17


Again, this Sunday, we are given the glorious witness of St. John the Baptist. This passage above is from Year C of the liturgical cycle, but Year A & B also present us with John the Baptist.

In this sermon of John, he says that Jesus will come and baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The image of being baptized “with fire” is a good one to reflect upon. It especially reveals to us the deep purification Jesus desires for our souls.

What does it mean to be purified? For one thing, purification of our soul hurts. But it hurts in a sweet sort of way. Turning from sin and growing closer to God requires great sacrifice and surrender. And it requires that we allow God to do powerful things within us. And the most powerful thing God wants to do is purify us.

Our Catholic faith reveals to us the reality of Purgatory after we die. Purgatory is said to be a place of much spiritual pain, but again, in a sweet sort of way. It’s painful in the sense that we are stripped of all that we hold on to that God wants us to let go of. It’s painful in the sense that we endure a complete transformation of who we are and what we love. We learn to love God and God alone. And in the embrace of our love of God, we come to love all people.

It’s also sweet because, as we are purified, we grow infinitely closer to God and grow in holiness. This lifts the burden of sin and frees us to love as we ought.

But our purification ought not start only in Purgatory. We are all called to enter into that process of purification here and now. We are called to heed the words of John the Baptist today and repent of all that keeps us from holiness of life.

Reflect, today, upon the purification to which God may be calling you. What is it that you hold on to that He wants you free of? Commit yourself to the purifying fire of God’s love and let that love cleanse you in this Advent season.

Lord, I do long to have my soul purified by You. I do desire holiness of life. Help me to begin this process here and now so that I can begin to experience the joy and freedom You have in store for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Daily Reflection on Divine Mercy