Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)
Ramon used to drink a lot. We would say that he had a drinking problem. He might have even called himself an alcoholic bound to nowhere except, perhaps, an early death. One day, however, he decided to stop drinking. The decision came in the midst of prayer and its outcome was nourished by prayer. Since that moment Ramon has never been drunk again. In fact, he never takes a drink although he will sip the Precious Blood when it is offered at Mass.
Such a radical turnabout seems to be what Jesus has in mind when he speaks of being born again. He does not intend to say that one has merely to undergo the Baptism ritual to see the kingdom of God. No, he has a more fundamental experience in mind. He means being transformed so as to live in a completely new way. Like Ramon those who experience such a change know that it is primarily not their doing but a work of grace. Evidently many of the baptized in the early Church were so changed as they were preparing for the sacrament.
Then what about those of us who were baptized at a tender age? Do we have a legitimate place in the kingdom of God, or are we like squatters in the park soon to be removed? Perhaps we could test ourselves. Do we see radical change for the better in ourselves? Do we find ourselves becoming more God-like? If we used to like talking about ourselves, are we now ready to listen to those needing to share their burden? If we used to look at women or men as objects of desire, are we now seeing them as God’s children? Such transformations are the true outcomes of water and the Spirit.