1) Opening prayer
All praise and thanks be to you,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You have given us your risen Son
to be alive in our communities.
Make us see him with eyes of faith,
that he may unite us, heart and soul.
May his dynamic presence among us
move us to become with him,
each other's bread of life,
that no one among us may hunger
for food or help when in need.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 3,7b-15
Jesus said to Nicodemus: "You must be born from above. The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 'How is that possible?' asked Nicodemus.
Jesus replied, 'You are the Teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things! 'In all truth I tell you, we speak only about what we know and witness only to what we have seen and yet you people reject our evidence. If you do not believe me when I speak to you about earthly things, how will you believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
• Today’s Gospel speaks about the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus had heard people speak about the things Jesus did, and he was struck, surprised. He wishes to speak with Jesus in order to be able to understand better. He thought he knew the things of God. He lived with the booklet of the past in his hand to see if this agreed with the novelty announced by Jesus. In the conversation, Jesus says that the only way in which Nicodemus could understand the things of God was to be born again! Sometimes we are like Nicodemus: we only accept as something new what is in agreement with our old ideas. Other times, we allow ourselves to be surprised by facts and we are not afraid to say: “I am born anew!”
• When the Evangelists recall the last words of Jesus, they have before them the problems of the communities for which they write. The questions of Nicodemus to Jesus are a reflection of the questions of the communities of Asia Minor at the end of the first century. For this reason, the answers of Jesus to Nicodemus were, at the same time, a response to the problems of those communities. At that time, the Christians followed the catechesis in this way. Most probably, the account of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus formed part of the Baptismal catechesis, because he says that the persons have to be reborn from water and the Spirit (Jn 3, 6).
• John 3, 7b-8: Born from above, born anew, again, and born of the Spirit. In Greek, the same word means anew, again and from above. Jesus had said: “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit” (Jn 3, 5). And he adds “”What is born of human nature, is human (flesh); what is born of the Spirit is Spirit” (Jn 3, 6).Here ‘flesh’ means that which is born only from our own ideas. What is born from us has our own mark, our own measure. To be born of the Spirit is another thing! And Jesus, once again reaffirms what he had said before: One has to be born from above (born again)” That is, one must be reborn of the Spirit who comes from above. And he explains that the Spirit is like the wind. Both in Hebrew and in Greek, the same word is used to say spirit and wind. Jesus says “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. The wind has within it a direction. We are aware of the direction of the wind, for example, the wind of the North and the wind of the South, but we do not know nor do we control the cause why the wind moves in one direction or another. The Spirit is like this. “No one is the master of the Spirit” (Qc 8, 8).That which best characterizes the wind, the Spirit, is liberty. The wind, the Spirit, is free, it cannot be controlled. It acts on others and nobody can act on it. Its origin is the mystery; its destiny is the mystery. The fisherman has, in the first place, to discover the direction of the wind. Then he should place the sails according to that direction. This is what Nicodemus should do and what all of us should do.
• John 3, 9: Question of Nicodemus: How is that possible? Jesus does nothing more than summarize what the Old Testament taught concerning the action of the Spirit, of the holy wind, in the life of the People of God and which Nicodemus, Teacher and Doctor, should know. And just the same, Nicodemus is frightened in hearing Jesus’ response and acts as if he was ignorant: “How is that possible?”
• John 3, 10-15: The answer of Jesus: Faith comes from witness and not from the miracle. Jesus changes the question: “You are the Teacher of Israel and you do not know these things?” Because for Jesus, if persons believe only when things are according to their own arguments and ideas, then the faith is not perfect. Faith is perfect when it is the faith of one who believes because of the witness. He leaves aside his own arguments and gives himself, because he believes in the one giving witness.
4) Personal Questions
• Have you had some experience in which you have had the impression of being born again? How was it?
• Jesus compares the action of the Holy Spirit with the wind. What does this comparison of the action of the Spirit of God reveal in our life? Have you already placed the sails of your life according to the direction of the wind of the Spirit?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted,
he helps those whose spirit is crushed.
Though hardships without number beset the upright,
Yahweh brings rescue from them all. (Ps 34,18-19)