Homilette for Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)

Where the Gospel of John notes that Nicodemus comes to Jesus “at night,” its purpose is not to give the reader the time of day. Rather, “night” in this gospel indicates ignorance and possibly evil. In this case could Nicodemus do better than to consult Jesus, “the light of the world”?

Jesus sounds obscure to Nicodemus (and possibly to us as well) as he advises that one must be “born from above” to see the Kingdom of God. We know that Jesus is referring to Baptism here, but we should not think of it as a ceremonial washing. No, for the Gospel of John Baptism is the profound experience of being adopted into a whole new family. It is the joy of being loved not out of familial obligation, much less from egotistical passion, but from recognition of one’s innate dignity and despite one’s shortcomings and past mistakes. It is, as well, the Spirit’s empowerment to love others with like abandon.

Protestants often speak of their “born again” experiences which lead to Baptism. They may use Nicodemus’ term but have Jesus’ understanding of being “born from above” in mind. Catholics, typically baptized as infants, are at a loss with either expression. To get an idea of what Jesus means, we might recall an instance where we erred dismally – perhaps failing to visit a dying friend or cruelly insulting another. Then after confessing our sin and making some kinds of amends, we felt the love of Christ return to us as soothing as it was undeserved. This is, at least in part, the experience of being born again.