“The world does not consist of 100 percent Christians and 100 percent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. ” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
(Gospel Text: Jn 3:7b-15)
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘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.” Nicodemus answered and said to him, ‘How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
In American society, after being educated, working hard, and sacrificing many things, many people tend to think that all that they have belongs to them-not to God. As a product of this mentality, it is easy to get attached to the things we have, and to only think of ourselves when we choose how to use our gifts, accomplishments, money, connections, etc.
Drawing on one of my previous reflections, I question how much each person does to get what he or she has. I ask questions like: If I had been raised in a much poorer, lower educated, secluded family, would I be as successful as I am today? Would I have all of the things that I have (material possessions, access to healthy food, education, connections, etc.)? How big of a factor is circumstance when it comes to the type of life that we live?
There are two major things that come into play here. The first is the opportunities that a person is given, and the second is what that person does with those opportunities. Remembering above all that “everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded “(Lk 12:48).
We might consider that when we are coming to life in our mothers' wombs we have no choice in the matter --- not whether, not how, not when we will be born, not any choice at all. Yet Christ has made it very clear that we have a rebirth in Baptism, one that I believe we formally choose for ourselves when we stand forth for Confirmation, and this rebirth receives its fullness when we die and leave the womb that is this world. Here on Earth, so different from waiting for our first birth, we have the choice of who we will be after we die, and as Christians we must ask ourselves whether we are choosing, with every decision and act, to become children of God as we follow the example of Jesus.
And so we hear the message about being born from above in today’s gospel passage, but the sad reality is we don't really want to die to our present situation to experience that resurrection. We're told about the Spirit blowing where he wills, but we put on our windbreakers rather than lift high our sails. And that's one of the reasons why neither we nor our parish communities experience anything close to what the early Church underwent after Jesus' resurrection.
The question for us as disciples today in the year 2013 is: Whether we understand the radical nature of the call to newness of life offered to us personally by Jesus himself in the here and now?
To be begotten both again and from above we must choose to live in that total trust in God that we call "hope," generously and fearlessly living in a most loving manner in the situations God puts us into and for those God sends into our lives....