"After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit". Mark 1:7.
John the Baptist’s life was interesting and wild. Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41). When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John leaped in her womb as they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The Spirit led John into the wilderness prior to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God. John’s clothing was reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (see Kings 1:8). We never need to astonish about the wilderness in our Christian life provided we are guided by Spirit and we grew in the Word.
There was a long silence before John and after Zachariah and Malachi. Again we don’t need to worry about the silence of God in our life. The silence is only a notice of the important events following. Revelation 8:1, 1 Kings 19:12.
In fact his message wasn’t a new one and was similar to Old Testament prophet’s asking repentance. For the people expert in scriptures he was just another prophet and nothing new in him except his attempt to baptise his followers. What we have to keep in mind is, there is no new gospel from God except the one by Jesus, as from the beginning he is asking for our repentance. And God’s interference may simply be just another one but the result from it may be much enough to change everything. Many of the Jews didn’t accept the foretelling of John’s life and thus they made their heart rigid against the long awaiting Jesus’ incarnation.
But for Jesus, John the Baptist was something more. Jesus tells us that John the Baptist was more than a prophet (Luke 7:26). John was the voice of the Consoler who is coming (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:1-3). He completed the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14). Careful when we judge others, someone may be more important to God than we think, and they may make an impact which we cant predict, with the help of God. Karol Józef Wojtyła was just another polish who is interested in theatrical activity and sports. There is a good chance that only a few find something more in a young and active ordinary youth who was chosen by God to guide his Church through the worst tabulations in history, the spreading of Communism.
There is a difference between the baptism given by John and our baptism in Jesus Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance. It was a symbolic and was he was ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’. John make it clear “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. He made it symbolic- the same symbolic meaning of forgiveness of sin and salvation by baptism in the Old Covenant- seen in flood and Noah’s Ark, crossing and death of Red Sea, and finally the crossing of Jordan and winning of promised land.
According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ’s death, is buried with him, and rises with him:
‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. The baptized have “put on Christ.” Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies’. CCC1227.
Our baptism in Jesus Christ by water and the Spirit results in a new birth and entry into God’s kingdom as his beloved sons and daughters (John 3:5). As baptised we are in the same shoes of John the Baptist, and the same old question chimes – Do we speak and act as Jesus did? “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:12.
Pharisees asked John whether he himself was the Christ, and he said: ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord’ same as Isaiah said (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:30). This is the exact definition of a Christian and only one important thing need to be added to it – “the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie”. If we understand this there wont be any confusion- there will be a place for everything, and a value for everything, so that it will be fine to be a vessel to dishonor if we are ready to cleanse ourselves. “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honour and some to dishonour.” 2 Timothy 2:20. Even a young donkey has an important role to play in salvation. John 12:12.
All of these, understanding the need of baptism not only by water but also by Spirit, valuing others better than us and anticipating for God’s interference, are all rooted in Mother Mary and she is the best and ultimate example for these. That is how the Hail Mary is getting more and more relevant.
Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with Thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.