"I firmly believe that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride, selfishness, and self-seeking ambition and every thing that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Ghost will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride, conceit, self-seeking pleasures and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God; and I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else." - Therefore, in order for the cup to be filled, it must first be emptied!
Gospel text (Jn 3,1-8):
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,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
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.”
The Gospel today is an interesting one; Nicodemus, a ruler with great authority, comes to Jesus in the dead of night to secretly speak to him about this faith of which Jesus speaks. Nicodemus is fairly apprehensive at first and quite questioning of what Jesus has to say to him. Jesus mentions being born from above and Nicodemus misinterprets this to mean to be born in flesh a second time. What Jesus is speaking of being born in the Spirit…in Baptism and Confirmation.
A few days ago we were still celebrating the Paschal Vigil. An integral part of it was the Baptism celebration, which is the Passover, a step from death to life. The solemn benediction of water and the renewal of baptismal promises were key points of that holy night.
In the baptism ritual there is an immersion in water (death symbol) and an emergence from water (a new life image). We are submerged in sin and we come out of it renewed. This is what Jesus calls «to be born from above» or «to be born again» (cf. Jn 3:3). This is “to be born of water”, “to be born of the Spirit” or “of the blowing wind...”.
Water and Spirit are the two symbols used by Jesus. Both express the action of the Holy Spirit that purifies and grants life, cleans and encourages, calms the thirst and breathes, smoothes and speaks. Water and Spirit make a single thing.
But Jesus also says the flesh is in opposition to the Spirit: «What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit» (Jn 3:6). Carnal man is humanly born when he appears down here. But the carnal man is defeated by the spiritual man, who is spiritually born in the Baptism. Which means to be born anew and of above. A beautiful formula by Saint Paul could be our reflection and action motto, mostly in this Paschal time: «Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life» (Rm 6:3-4).
Jesus then instructs the Pharisee about the Holy Spirit and how, although we cannot ever see the Spirit or feel it with us in a physical sense, the Holy Spirit is always with us, leading us to the Light. I think that our minds can sometimes become clouded just as Nicodemus’s mind became when speaking about the Holy Spirit with Jesus. The Spirit acts within us, and during this Easter season, I believe we should all contemplate how the Spirit is acting through us in our daily lives. We don’t know all the details of the Spirit or God’s plan for us, but that doesn’t really matter; we simply need to keep our faith strong in the Lord and trust him. My last point: the recurrence of the Holy Spirit in the reading for today brought to my mind my Confirmation and my Confirmation name; I hope everyone who has gone through Confirmation can take the time to reflect on why each of us chose that individual as an example to live by and seek to become more like him or her.