St. John the Baptist attests to the greatness of the one who comes after him: I baptize with water but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie. This greater one who comes after him is the one who, in last Sunday’s Gospel, will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Whenever we celebrate Advent, we presume that we are preparing for the coming of Jesus, the Son of God. Thus, we presume that St. John the Baptist was referring to Jesus as the one “who is among you whom you do not recognize.” However, seldom do we realize that it is not only God the Son who was hidden and unrecognized in the past. So also was the Holy Spirit. The Catechism points out: “From the beginning until the ‘fullness of time,’ the joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation.” (CCC 702.) In fact, we should know that the mission of Christ and the mission of the Holy Spirit are inseparable: “When the Father sends His Word, He always sends His Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible Image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals Him.” (CCC, 689). The Prophecy of Isaiah reveals the inseparability of both the Son and the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” The reason why Jesus is called the Christ, the Messiah, is because He is anointed by the Holy Spirit. Messiah means “Anointed One.” Jesus is the Anointed One and the Holy Spirit is His Anointing.
Thus, in the Old Testament, “Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit.” (CCC 711) Thus, the prophets of old did not wait only for the Messiah. They also awaited the Spirit who would renew the face of the earth. These two prophetic lines will be fulfilled by Jesus who does not come alone, but one who comes anointed by the Holy Spirit. He comes to bestow the Holy Spirit: He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. “The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promises, with the ‘accents of love and fidelity.’ …According to these promises, at the ‘end time’ the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.” (CCC 715)
And that time, the “end times” referred to, is now. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost inaugurated the end times – “By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last days’ , the time of the Church, the Kingdom of God already initiated though not yet consummed.” (CCC 732) Isn’t this what Advent is all about? It is not simply a preparation period for Christmas, the annual commemoration of Christ’s first coming. It is also the preparation for Christ’s coming at the end of time. Christ has already come and by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, has delivered to us the Holy Spirit whom He promised. Now, as we joyfully await the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit is at work to prepare us to face the Lord Jesus. How does the Holy Spirit do this? St. Paul gives the answer: “May the God of Peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As the prophets cooperated with the Holy Spirit in preparation for Christ’s coming, so should we, in preparing for the Lord’s 2nd coming, cooperate with the Holy Spirit: Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks…Do not quench the Spirit…Test everything, retain what is good. Refrain for every kind of evil.”