John’s Baptism in the river Jordan called to mind the soldiers of Pharaoh getting drowned in the Red Sea as they pursued the Israelites. Those soldiers deserved to be drowned for unjustly enslaving the Israelites in physical labor. When everyone went down to the river Jordan confessing their sins and getting smashed down under the water by John to symbolize the death they deserved for having enslaved each other in sin, this was an occasion to have a humble and contrite heart, and was thus a baptism that was an occasion for the remission of sin. When Jesus was baptized, He wasn’t saying he was a sinner, but that, as the innocent Son of God, he was playing the part of the worst sinner of all, the One who enslaved all people of all time in sin, from Adam until the last man is conceived. He was thus saying to his heavenly Father: “Treat me as being guilty, as being worthy of death.” Right after that baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon him and our heavenly Father spoke thunderously: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But straight after that, Jesus said that he longed for the baptism for which he came, that of his own blood, by which he would fulfill what he did in the baptism of John by taking on the guilt of all our sins. By standing in our stead, the innocent for the guilty, he would have the right in his own justice to have mercy on us: “Father forgive them,” he now commanded from the cross. He wants to give us as a gift to our heavenly Father in heaven.
Meanwhile, John says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The fire is the very love of God who God is. The Holy Spirit makes us one with Jesus, who is the Head of the Body of Christ while the Holy Spirit forms us into being the members of the one Body of Christ. As the Holy Spirit introduces us to who we are in Christ Jesus, we see Jesus as the Standard of Truth and Goodness and Kindness and we then see ourselves by way of a comparison we could not previously make that we fall short of that Standard, and we are brought by the Holy Spirit to have a humble and contrite heart before the Divine Son of God, who in all his majesty lays down his life for us, standing in our stead. It is then that we make our way to Confession (as the people were doing at John’s baptism) and we receive sacramental absolution, being reconciled to God and all the other members of the mystical body of Christ simultaneously, getting the grace directly from Jesus, but by the words of the knucklehead priest (like this donkey priest) who, by his ordination, represents all other members of the Body of Christ. We then hear the absolution, which includes something about the Holy Spirit, that he was sent among us for the forgiveness of sin. That is how Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit.
The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit build on this baptism of the Holy Spirit. Other special gifts are totally secondary to all of this. The main thing is being one with the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, Jesus, King of kings, Lord of lords, Wonder Counselor, Prince of the Most Profound Peace, who will – do not be mistaken – come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, the very fire of God’s love, the fire of the Holy Spirit. Amen.