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Born anew from on high for a new life

· ​Meditation The Sisters of Bose ·

John 3:1-21

In this Easter season which we are now living the God News reaches us through this Gospel passage. It is the proclamation that in Jesus Christ, Dead and Risen in accordance with the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:46-48), the beloved Son whom the Father sent to give life to men (cf. Jn 3:16-17), new life is possible, a new and eternal life (cf. Jn 3:15) which also becomes a new life here and now, that is, in our existence on earth, as Jesus says here to Nicodemus, it is possible “to be born anew” (Jn 3:7). Yes, the proclamation of a new life for us men and women is truly good news, since sadness and despair sometimes get the upper hand within us, faced with the evil that dwells in our hearts and tears apart our relationships. As we confront our hearts of stone we are prompted to say: who ever will give us a heart of flesh (cf. Ezek 36:26)? As we face the checkmate that, in the more recent or the distant past, our own lives seem definitively to have sanctioned, against the evidence of all human logic who will ever give us the possibility to fish again, to gather fruit once again in abundance when to us everything seems to testify to the contrary (cf. Lk 5:11)?

“Jesus meets Zacchaeus”, detail of the polyptych of Notre-Dame des Neiges, France

However, in this Gospel passage Jesus attests to Nicodemus precisely this possibility, which is real not by virtue of the human being but rather by virtue of the effectiveness of the Paschal Mystery, which through the energies of the Resurrection of the One whom the Father sent into the world so that men and women might have life (cf. Jn 3:16), can bring us to be born anew from on high, can renew our lives, even against all evidence, even when we are getting on in years, even when the sclerosis of our vices seems to be getting a grip on our inmost depths and on our living.

John speaks of being “born anew”, whereas the three synoptic Gospels speak of “repentance”, a conversion both in attitude (epistrophè) and within ourselves, in the same manner as loving and as thinking (metànoia). Repentance, all the Gospels tell us, is possible, to the point that Jesus also includes it within the proclamation of the Paschal Mystery to which the disciples are called to bear witness. Indeed, the Risen One said to them: “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations […]. You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:46-48). Witnesses of the Risen One, witnesses of life that in him conquered death and of the love that overcame hatred, witnesses of the forgiveness of sins, and also of the word of repentance, since newness of life has now been made possible for us and is revealed to us as a possibility that unfolds before each one, even when the horizon had seemed definitively closed.

Flemish miniature (1450)

And this is so to the point that Jesus gently reprimands Nicodemus, revealing to him that by being sceptical before this opportunity which is given to him not only does he show himself incapable of accepting the gift offered to him but he also fails in his mission, in his task as guide of the community of believers in the Lord: “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?” (Jn 3:10).

However, are we believers prepared to abandon our darkness as we face the light, and to abandon the sin that dwells within us and, more or less obviously, destroys our lives? The Lord Jesus stands in front of us as the One who came not to take our lives for himself but to lay down his own life for us (Jn 3:14). And yet this gift is not magic but calls for our freedom; indeed, it can be effective only if space is left for it, only, that is, if the recipients of this gift are prepared and ready to receive that baptism of repentance which is the fruit of the Pentecost which happens on the Cross (cf. Jn 19:30), and which right from today can renew and reshape, can make the life of all who believe in the Son flourish anew, as the passage which immediately follows this verse proclaims.

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