BORN OF WATER AND SPIRIT
To be reborn, we enter into a life of love, peace, joy, and freedom that can only come from God.
Throughout this Easter season, our first reading at Mass is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. This book, composed by St. Luke, tells the story of the pristine Church after the resurrection of Christ. The Church was born from the side of Christ dying upon the cross. When the physical Christ died, the mystical Christ was born, Jesus, like a mother dying in childbirth, gave up His life so that we might be given a new life in the Spirit.
What happened for the Church as a whole on Good Friday happened for us on the day of our own baptism: We were born of water and the Spirit, given a share in the life of Christ and thereby made children of the Father. We became brothers and sisters of one another, the family of God. What we read in the Acts of the Apostles forms a plan for our own lives as Christians. For example, in today's reading we see that the Christians were a community of believers who were eager to share their faith, even in the face of dire threats. We also see that they were a prayerful people. In their prayers and in their lives they were led by the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel we read: "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." Do we ever just stop and listen, look, smell, to see the beauty of God and what He has created around us. Do we really marvel at it all, and think of things that are life-giving? Jesus said that rebirth was necessary to enter the kingdom of God. Of course, Nicodemus the Pharisee had already found religion, so he thought that Jesus must have referred to physical rebirth. No, Jesus responded, someone who is reborn spiritually knows the experience as surely as one who has been refreshed by an invisible breeze. The Gospel portrays Nicodemus as a defender of Jesus' right to a fair trial (Jn 7-51). Nicodemus also helped to bury Jesus with honor. Nicodemus did not understand the new birth, which Jesus spoke of, until after the Resurrection. What does it mean to be reborn? The new birth Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to new life, and relationship with God as His sons and daughters. To be reborn, we enter into a life of love, peace, joy, and freedom that can only come from God.
Finally, the life of the Church is summed up in an earlier chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. It states "They devoted themselves to the apostles' instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). The apostles' instruction is preserved in the writings of the New Testament and in the sacred Tradition of the Church. We hear this instruction every day at Mass. "The breaking of the bread" is the New Testament term for the Mass, which we celebrate with prayers. The communal life refers to the life of caring for each other in love. In other words, the life of the Church as described in the Acts of the Apostles is indeed the blueprint for our lives.
In the responsorial psalm we acclaim: "Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord. For God said we are His sons and daughters; this day I have begotten you" (Ps 2 7b-9). For we are born of water and spirit!