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Nicodemus and being born from above

John 3:1-15

4/8/2016
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Some commentators consider the Gospel according to John as a great trial of Jesus. As in every trial there are the prosecution witnesses and in the Gospel these are the Jews and there are the witnesses for the defense, that is, all those who believed in the Lord Jesus. In this great trial, it was Jesus who took the floor and explained to the whole world the reason why it is Him and no other the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Nicodemus was a person who had importance.

Nicodemus went to Jesus by night, to avoid being seen by anyone, and confessed the essential truth that Jesus is from God. Jesus is one who has been sent by God. Jesus is one who has a divine mission. Nicodemus behind Jesus saw the Lord, the God creator of the universe, the God of their fathers. He went at night because he didn’t take much strength to take sides openly for Jesus. This is the first step to mature faith. Not always faith must be perfect from the beginning. Sometimes faith needs a secrecy and this secrecy is granted. In secret you can also work for faith and for the one who is the main Witness, rather the very foundation of all faiths.

This is the same experience lived by the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta. The path that Jesus made her to do is long and above all gradual. In the silence of her heart, Jesus worked Luisa’s soul and forged her little by little until she becomes pure and capable of receiving the gift of the Divine Will.

In her spiritual diary, on July 18, 1926 Luisa spoke about what Jesus did in her: for many years and years He hid her because He wanted to form the Supreme Kingdom in her; He prepared her, He formed her, He enclosed Himself in her, in the depth of her soul in order to form It; and when everything was done, He manifested the secret to her, He spoke to her about her special mission, He asked her in a formal way whether she wanted to accept living in his Will; and even though she trembled and feared, He reassured her, saying to her: ‘Why do you trouble yourself? Have you perhaps not lived with Me until now in the Kingdom of my Will?’ And Luisa, serene again, would make more of a practice of the living in It, and Our Lord would delight in expanding ever more the boundaries of his Kingdom; because it is established up to what point the creature must take possession of this Kingdom, since Its boundaries are endless, and the creature is incapable of embracing them all, because she is limited.

Nicodemus confessed Jesus as a teacher who came from God, and this is what the Master who teaches the truth of God proclaims to him: " Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.". The kingdom of God can be seen in a only one way: being born from above. The kingdom of God can’t be seen from above, or by other means or human conditions. The kingdom of God is seen in only one way: being born from above. You see it to get into it. You see it to know it. You see it to teach it. You see it to witness its beauty. To be born from above has only one meaning: to be born from God. The knowledge of the kingdom according to all its meaning it is possible only when it comes from God, from above. This is the truth disclosed by Jesus to Nicodemus.

It is the rebirth of man in Jesus! Luisa is invited by Jesus to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. As Jesus was conceived and his Humanity was formed, He made all creatures be reborn in Him. So, in his Humanity, as they were being reborn in Him, He felt each one of their distinct acts. In his mind He contained each thought of creature, good and evil. The good ones, He confirmed in good; He surrounded them with his grace, He invested them with his light, so that, being reborn from the sanctity of his mind, they might be worthy parts of his Intelligence. For the evil ones then, He repaired, He made penance, He multiplied his thoughts to infinity in order to give to the Father the glory of each thought of creatures. In his gazes, in his words, in his hands, in his feet, and even in his Heart, He contained the gazes, the words, the works, the steps and the hearts of each one; and being reborn in Him, everything remained confirmed in the sanctity of his Humanity. Everything was repaired for; and for each offense He suffered a special pain. Then, having made all of them be reborn in Him, He carried them within Him through the whole course of my Life.

Then, Jesus announces to Nicodemus, what is meant by "born from above". It means "to be born of water and the Spirit". Thus the meaning of the verb ‘to see’ is also clarified: "to see" means "to come in." The Baptism of Jesus is the door of the kingdom. Which is born of the flesh is flesh. Not only we are flesh but we live according the desires of the flesh.  On the contrary, the birth from the Spirit transforms us, makes us become spiritual beings and also makes us live according to the Spirit. By baptism a new man, a new creature is born. Spiritual man is born. This simply means that the Holy Spirit makes us partakers of the divine nature that should gradually turn us into spiritual beings.

This is the difference between the baptized and non-baptized. The non-baptized person will never reach the heights of the highest holiness. He will live the justice that his conscience dictates. But he can’t go beyond. It lacks the new birth. It is as if he were a bird without wings. He will never experience the ecstasy of the eagle soaring through the sky. He will just have to walk on the ground. Instead the baptized person can reach the highest peaks of holiness. He can become a light so powerful to flood the world with the light of truth, love and hope.

The abandonment in God shapes the wings to fly in eternity, instead abandoning to ourselves immobilizes.

On February 2, 1924 Jesus reminded to Luisa that his Will is motion of everything. The soul who is completely abandoned in his Holy Will follows Its motion and takes flight in his Eternal Volition, in such a way as to go around as It does in the sphere of Eternity, be wherever It is, and do whatever It does. Abandonment is the wings in order to fly together with his Will. As abandonment ceases, she loses the flight and the wings are destroyed. So, everyone feels the motion, the life of his Will, because there is no motion which does not come from Him, but they remain at the point in which they are. Only one who has the wings of the abandonment in Him and follows the same course as His Will, hovers over everything, both in Heaven and on earth, enters into the sphere of eternity, goes around in the midst of the Three Divine Persons, penetrates into Their most intimate hiding places, and is aware of Their secrets and of Their beatitudes.

It happens as to an engine which has the primary wheel in the center and many other small wheels around it, which are fixed. As the primary wheel moves, all receive motion, but they never arrive at touching the primary wheel, nor do they know anything of what it does and of the goods it contains. But there is another small wheel, which is not fixed, and by means of a mechanism, it goes around continuously across all the small wheels, to then find itself in each motion of the primary wheel, and begin its round again. Now, this itinerant little wheel knows what is there in the primary wheel and takes part in the goods it contains. Now, the primary wheel is God’s Will, the small wheels which are fixed are the souls who are abandoned to themselves, which renders them immobilized in good; the itinerant little wheel is the soul who lives in God’s  Will, and the mechanism is the complete abandonment in Him. So, each lack of abandonment in Him is a round that man loses in the sphere of Eternity.

 

The first truth of the new spiritual being is this: the spiritual being is so light as to be always driven by the Holy Spirit. Where the Spirit leads him he goes. Where the Spirit does not lead him, he doesn’t go. The spiritual being is completely ruled by the Holy Spirit. The spiritual being is guided in every action by the Holy Spirit. He is at the helm of his life. The Saints, the true spiritual beings, live in this way: they are always moved by the Spirit of the Lord. Their program is the Holy Spirit who leads them to conform themselves totally to Jesus, to think with His own mind, to look with His own eyes, to hear with His own ears,  to speak the same language,  to work with His own hands so that he can walk with His own feet and he can love Jesus with His own heart.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The Pharisees did not know spiritual freedom. They lived in a prison of precepts and prohibitions, rules, regulations, traditions, customs, habits, which made it impossible to breath. It is difficult for a man prisoner and slave of himself to talk about freedom. Jesus' discourse is very difficult for Nicodemus to understand. Nicodemus does not understand, because he doesn’t know. But the discourse of Jesus is totally new;  we can even say that it is a revelation given just to Nicodemus. Then, how he would have to know these things? Where the Ancient Scripture speaks of the Spirit and of his liberating motion? The Old Testament wisely read and interpreted, understood and lived, led to the spiritual freedom. Nicodemus, however did not do it because he was sealed in a system that did not allow any other reading than that of the scribes and Pharisees of his time.

Jesus testifies what He saw with the Father and, with the Fathe,r He is from eternity. He lives in the bosom of the Father.

Jesus is the only one who is God, He is God with the Father, He is God in the Father's heart, He is God who became flesh, He became a true man.  Faced with this truth, what is man's response? There is an inborn blindness and deafness in men. These are deaf, blind, and most importantly with a ill will: they do not want to accept his testimony.

Every man is composed of earth,  he thinks earthly thoughts, he lives according to the thoughts of earth. What is of earth is seen, observed, interpreted, discerned, understood. Now Jesus said, "If I tell you about earthly things, that is, things that happen under your eyes, things that you can experience, touch, observe directly, personally and also as a community, and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things that do not happen under your eyes and can’t be directly observed, touch, seen, observed, experienced by you? ". If a person fails to understand that the flesh can’t follow the Spirit, unless it becomes itself Spirit, how can she open herself up to things infinitely higher than this?

"No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." (Gv3,13). With these words Jesus reveals his mystery to Nicodemus. We would say immediately that it is a mystery of descent from heaven with the Incarnation and ascent to Heaven with the glorious resurrection and transformation of his body into the spirit. We would say that Jesus came down from Heaven and ascended to Heaven, and so its mystery is completed in its accomplishment. Instead John says exactly the opposite. Who has already ascended to Heaven? He who descended from Heaven, the Son of Man. This is the mystery of Jesus: His Incarnation and glorious ascension.

Now let us move on the mystery that must be done on earth. Jesus compares himself with the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness.

The serpent in the wilderness was a sign to the Israelites. Their life was placed on that pole. Those who watched the snake remained alive, those who refused to look at it perished. Jesus is this bronze snake for all mankind. The pole on which He will be raised is the cross. What is the condition to stay alive, or to not die? To believe in Him. Whosoever believes in him should not perish but have the gift of eternal life.

The difference between the bronze snake and Christ Jesus, however, is substantial. The bronze snake allowed the person that had been bitten by the real snake and went to meet certain death to live. Jesus who was lifted up on the cross, instead, fills with eternal life those who look at Him with faith, that is, those who believe in Him.

But what exactly does it mean to believe in Him? It means to build our life on his Word, after having mixed it with the charity of his grace and the hope of his loyalty. It means to welcome Him, to become one with Him, to allow ourselves to be transformed (to be deified) from his mystery of grace and truth, to become for the whole world a mystery of grace and truth.

In Volume 13 of Luisa's writings, Jesus explains the "rebirth" of men in Him. He delivered them on the Cross, on the bed of his bitter pains, among atrocious spasms, in the last breath of his Life. As Jesus died, men were born again to new life, all sealed and marked with the whole work of his Humanity. Not content with having given them new birth, Jesus gave to each one everything He had done so as to keep them sheltered and safe. The man contains a great holiness; the same holiness of Jesus’ Humanity which could never bring to light unworthy children, dissimilar from Him. This is why He loves man so much: he is “a birth from Him”. But man is always ungrateful, and reaches the point of not recognizing the Father Who delivered him with so much love and pain.

The expression “born again” means to understand myself and the reality in which I live not starting from my needs, my fears or my simple ideals, but starting from God, from His Word and His plan of universal salvation.

“Being born again” is important because it helps us not to lose our way, to avoid confusion, to find meaning in everything, to make synthesis.

We must not to upset our lives in forms, if anything, in the content. Those who work, those who are fathers or mothers of a family, those who are looking after a sick person can’t upset their lives and leave everything, God does not ask us to become irresponsible. St. Francis de Sales in 1600 had already realized this: "would it be fitting that a Bishop should seek to lead the solitary life of a Carthusian? And if a married woman were as regardless in making provision for the future as a Capucin?……the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion "(From the "Introduction to the Devout Life").  It is to keep doing what we are already doing , being born from above, that is from God. It is not a promise, it is much more, it's a guarantee!

[Translation by Antonella]

 

Don Marco
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