Gospel text (Jn 3,1-8):
Among the Pharisees there was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and said, «Rabbi, we know that you have come from God to teach us, for no one can perform miraculous signs like yours unless God is with him». Jesus replied, «Truly, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above».
Nicodemus said, «How can there be rebirth for a grown man? Who could go back to his mother's womb and be born again?». Jesus replied, «Truly, I say to you: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Because of this, don't be surprised when I say: ‘You must be born again from above’. The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit».
«No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above»
Fr. Josep Mª MASSANA i Mola OFM
Today, «a ruler of the Jews» (Jn 3:1) comes to Jesus. The Gospel says he does it by night: what would his comrades say should they find out? In Jesus' teachings we find a baptismal catechesis that, most surely, circulated in the Evangelist community.
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).