Fr. Kurian KollapallilGod’s love is universal and at the same time it is personal. Our God is concerned of each person individually yet at the same time he loves us as a community. The Love of God is made tangible in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus has shown us the Father’s love and calls us to share that love with our brothers and sisters. God’s love is unconditional, universal, forgiving and merciful. To experience God’s love we must come out of our sinful darkness and open ourselves to the light of the Sun of justice to be basked in his light and warmth. This turning to the grace of God is called the new birth. Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night had the same doubt as we may have, how can one be born again? Do we need to receive baptism again to be saved as some of the protestant denominations claim to be necessary for rebirth?

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin and a leader of the Jews. Sanhedrin was the legislative body of Israel. He was an expert and exponent of the Jewish law. He heard about Jesus and the signs and wonders Jesus worked and that raised curiosity in him. Nicodemus accepted Jesus as a teacher who came from God because of the miracles Jesus performed. Nicodemus had been troubled with few problems just like knowing the truth about Jesus, reliability of the person of Jesus and so on. Yet Nicodemus is careful not to be seen by others. He did not want to give a scandal to his fellow Jews, so he goes at night to see Jesus. Nicodemus could not overlook the weight of the evidences. His fellow Pharisees will quickly begin to find alternative explanations for Jesus’ success, but Nicodemus could not get away from his personal conviction that Jesus has some kind of divine mission, and that He possesses divine authority by which He speaks and heals.

Nicodemus prepared well with the questions to trap Jesus in the debate. Nicodemus begins with an affirmative statement instead of asking a direct question. Jesus knew the intention of Nicodemus therefore He did not give a reply what Nicodemus expected; instead Jesus begins where Nicodemus ended and answers him by saying “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” It doesn’t turn out at all as Nicodemus expected. Nicodemus uses reason and speaks in terms of the limits of reason and says: “How can anyone who is already old be born? Is it possible to go back in to the womb again and be born?”

If we look from the spiritual point of view, Nicodemus is telling Jesus that he is old and things are not quite right with him. The traditions and beliefs which have formed him and trained him to be a trainer will not allow him to be born again. Jesus, of course, had this uncanny ability to look right into a person’s heart, and he said, “I know the problem that you are having Nicodemus. It is not that you are old; it is not that you are tired; it is not that you are worn out. The problem is this; you are no longer close to God. You have drifted away from God. God is no longer living in the center of your heart. Nicodemus, you need to be born again.” Born again is a new experience, it is not like rebirth or re-incarnation which takes place up on death and after death. Being born again is an experience similar to that of a person who has been transplanted with a new heart. His dysfunctional heart is removed and a heart that works well is transplanted. Well, very often in life we have drifted away from God by our false perceptions and false beliefs along with our sinful habits. Removing our dysfunctional heart and establishing a renewed relationship and experiencing God’s love in one’s heart is called being “born again.”

The new birth Jesus calls forth is accomplished not through one’s own merits but being born of the water and the Spirit. What does it mean to be born of the water? Just as a child cannot live without water within the uterus, you and I cannot live without the water of God inside of us and around us giving us life. Water, both in us and around us, gives us life, just as water is in the unborn child and around the unborn child when that child is in the uterus. In order to be spiritually alive, we must be cleansed by the waters of God. We need to have our sins washed away daily, because we are sinful by nature, we need to be constantly washed of our sins, cleansed of our sins and purified of our sins. We need to be washed away whenever we break away from the relationship with God and we need to find the spirit’s presence again in our lives. To be born again in spirit means to experience the spirit of Jesus Christ living within us. It is a step by step process as Nicodemus experienced.

“Love is the life of our heart. Just as weights give movement to the movable parts of a clock, so love gives to the soul whatever movement it has. All our affections follow our love. According to it, we desire, rejoice, hope, despair, fear, take heart, hate, feel sadness or aversion, grow angry and exult” St. Francis de Sales