2nd Week of Easter, Monday, April 12
Acts 4:23-31 / John 3:1-8
Jesus speaks about spiritual birth; "You must be born from above. "
George Foreman, former heavyweight champion of the world, had been attending Bible classes and was in a prayer group. But he was still dragging his feet spiritually.One night after a fight he sat down in his dressing room and put his head in his hands. Suddenly he noticed the blood from a cut on his head flowing over his hands and dripping down onto his bare feet. Then it hit him. These were the wounds of Jesus: head, feet, and hands. That night Foreman experienced spiritual birth. He turned his life over to Jesus so totally that his handlers sent him to the hospital for head X rays, thinking he had a head injury and needed help.
Have we given ourselves over to Christ, or are we holding something back? "Jesus Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all." St. Augustine
Nicodemus, the sincere but cautious intellectual, comes to Jesus at night. He is afraid to show openly that he follows Christ. The apostles and the Christian community are persecuted. They are afraid too, but they pray for courage. The Spirit makes them bold in proclaiming Christ and in being signs of Christ’s presence in his community. Christians are people who are to be reborn in Christ, reborn in the Spirit. Hence, they are people who should remain eternally young. Is our faith timid or bold? Do we dare stand up for the Gospel and live our faith openly?
The time and the style of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus give the whole passage an air of mystery. The mysterious has only been intensified by the deep content of the conversation, which was above the understanding of the learned teacher of the law. He came to Jesus with the question every Jew would ask: What must I do to be saved?
Jesus did not let him formulate the sentence. Nicodemus was a wealthy man, a member of the highest religious council, the Sanhedrin. Jesus gave him the answer: to be saved, man must be born from above. This not the earthly birth but a divine, new mode of existence. By birth received our nature. By this rebirth we are made able to see God. This new existence is God's gift. We receive it from above through the water and the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments. Nicodemus knew of baptism from John at the Jordan. But here it is not only a washing but a purification. The streams of water are the Holy Spirit poured out on man. He has to accept this in faith. Grace gives us a new origin and a new nature.
After the apostles were released from prison, they went to meet their "own", that's what the Greek expression means. They reported Today of course we would have a committee to discuss the situation. Not the apostles: They prayed, they did. What is so important for a good prayer, they first remember, is that they are speaking to the Father, who is the almighty Creator of all that is, and who is the Master of history. He has the whole world in his hands. It is good to have this in mind when we pray. Only after that they tell God what has happened: He should take note of the threats - after all they are against Him - and He should come to the help of his servants. They did not pray to be persecuted. They prayed for courage. They prayed for courage to preach with frankness. Courage is one of the gifts of the Spirit. It is this Spirit they received
Every battle fought for the Lord increases the Spirit. That is his reward. To be a witness for God, by our life, by our word, by our work, needs the courage of the Spirit.
Lord, our God, our faith is at times timid and wavering, for we are afraid of being contradicted or ridiculed. Let your Spirit blow in us and give us a bit of his strength, that we may stand up boldly for what we believe and live our faith consistently. We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen