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Born of the Spirit
Monday of Second Week of Easter
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, I come before you today with Easter joy in my heart. I thank you for your marvelous work, the Resurrection. Help me, with your grace, to “put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:24).
- The Pharisee Nicodemus: Who was Nicodemus? He was a Pharisee, a spiritual leader of the Jewish people. The Jewish leaders had so much authority that Nicodemus was called “a ruler of the Jews.” He was evidently an honest man, clear-sighted and sincere. We know this because he was able to recognize that “no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” In addition, he came to Jesus genuinely searching for answers, and not just to win an argument. He was a man of faith, acknowledging God’s action in a mere carpenter’s son. And yet, Nicodemus had doubts, as we do. He did not understand the spirit; the Law seemed more trustworthy in its literalness. He came to Jesus at night, fearful of what others might think. Though his faith was growing, he was still flesh born of flesh.
- The Rabbi Jesus: In this passage, Jesus seems not to belong to this world of clay and dust. He worked signs in the name of God. He spoke of God’s invisible kingdom as if he could see it. When asked about earthly birth, he responded with the signs of water and rebirth. When Nicodemus spoke of flesh, he spoke of Spirit. And yet Jesus’s feet were always planted firmly on the ground, aware of human limitations; he was quite aware that Nicodemus was “amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’” Today, he invites us to faith, to contemplate heavenly things, to lift up our hearts. As St. Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
- Born of the Spirit: “The term ‘Spirit’ is translated from the Hebrew word ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God’s breath, the divine Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 691). “The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 694).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I recall the words of the Mass: “Lift up your hearts; we lift them up to the Lord!” With the grace of Baptism as my springboard, I ask you to increase my faith and lift my eyes and heart towards heaven.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will renew my baptismal promises, trusting in the Holy Spirit to help me fulfill them.
For Further Reflection: St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s catechetical lecture 20 on Baptism. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310120.htm.
written by Br. Erik Burckel, LC