In the second week of Easter, the Church focuses on the Ur-sacrament–Baptism: the entry into life in Christ and in the Church. At Pentecost, when people were moved by the preaching of Peter, they asked the apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” And those who accepted his message were baptized (Acts 2:37-38, 41).
The Gospel recounts Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a representative figure of Jesus’ followers who are still attached to the tenets of Judaism. Coming out from the traditions of Israel, Nicodemus probably thinks that to belong to the Kingdom of God, one accepts the tenets of the Mosaic Law, e.g., to be circumcised and to observe the traditions handed down in Israel. But Jesus speaks of a “new birth”: to be “born from above,” to be born of the Holy Spirit. It is like a new genesis, the birth of creation through the ruach of God (ruach can mean both breath and spirit). And the Spirit is precisely the gift of the risen Jesus. To be baptized in the Spirit is to become a new creation as a son or daughter of God and heir with Christ.
GOSPEL • JOHN 3:1-8
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘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.”
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