Monday (April 28): "Unless one is born anew"

Meditation: Do you nourish your faith with prayerful reflection of the word of God? When Nicodemus heard about Jesus' miracles and extraordinary teaching, he decided to meet with him privately, away from the crowds and the public spotlight. Nicodemus was no ordinary Jew. He was a religious ruler and member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). He was a devout Pharisee who sought to perfectly follow the law of Moses, as prescribed in the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers) and further elaborated in the numerous scribal laws, recorded in the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Nicodemus decided to meet with Jesus at night, possibly for two reasons. He may have been cautious and  not ready to publicly associate himself with Jesus since many Pharisees opposed Jesus' teaching and called him a Sabbath breaker. It is also likely that Nicodemus chose the night as the best time for seeking a private and undisturbed conversation with Jesus. The rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night after the day's work was completed and the household was at rest. When Nicodemus saw Jesus he addressed him as rabbi (a teacher of God's word and law) and acknowledged that Jesus' teaching came from God.

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus went to the very heart of the Mosaic law – how can one get right with God and enter God's kingdom? Jesus' answer was brief and startling: "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see God." The new birth which Jesus spoke about was not a physical birth but the beginning of a spiritual birth which is something completely new and radical, and from above, namely from God himself.  Jesus said that this rebirth was necessary if one was to enter God's kingdom. Nicodemus thought that to be born again, even spiritually, was impossible. He probably knew too well from experience that anyone who wants to be changed from within, can't accomplish this by oneself. Jesus explained that this change could only come about through the work and action of the Holy Spirit. This rebirth in the Spirit is very real and experiential, like the wind which can be felt and heard while it is visibly unseen to the naked eye.

What does it mean to be reborn in the Spirit? The new birth which Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to a life which is transformed through the power of God. This new life brings us into an experiential relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters (Romans 6:4; 8:10-11). This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life brings us into God's kingdom and heavenly way of life. we enter into the life and power of God's eternal kingdom

What is the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven? God's kingdom (his reign) is the abundant eternal life and heavenly power which God shares with those who accept him as the Eternal Father and Author of Life and Ruler of All that he has created. Jesus explains in the prayer he gave to his disciples, what we call the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father, that God's kingdom is that society of men and women who acknowledge God as their Lord and who live according to his will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). To be reborn is to enter that society in which God is honored and obeyed. Those who willingly accept God's rule in their lives become citizens of God's heavenly kingdom and members of God's family – his adopted sons and daughters. And they enter into possession of the life which comes from God himself, an eternal life of love, peace, joy, and freedom from sin, oppression, and corruption. Do you know the joy and freedom of the new birth and abundant life which Jesus Christ has won for you?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us abundant new life and power to live as sons and daughters of God. Renew in me the gift of faith to accept your life-giving word and to cooperate with the transforming power of your Holy Spirit at work in my life. May your kingdom come and your will be done in my life today, tomorow, and always."


This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/