If the gospel reading today sounds familiar, it is because the last verse in yesterday’s gospel reading is also in today’s. Jesus told Nicodemus that, “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.” ~ Jn 3: 7b-8
Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus continues in today’s reading. He doesn’t understand the meaning of what Jesus said, so he asked him, “How can this happen?” Jesus chided him, by saying, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?” But really, we should give Nicodemus credit for trying to learn from Jesus and understand his teachings better. The teacher of Israel willingly became a student of Jesus Christ. He had sense enough to do that, at least!
How also, can we teach other people about our faith, if we don’t know it or understand it ourselves? This is a double edged problem. Ignorance of our Catholic faith and ignorance of scripture, means we are ignorant of Christ. We can’t teach other people, like our children or non-Catholics, what we do not know, or rightly understand ourselves.
Great teachers are always learning more themselves though. This is what Nicodemus is doing in today’s gospel. He is questioning someone more knowledgeable than himself, in order to understand things better. This is an excellent example of how the scriptures can provide guidance and advise for situations in our own lives sometimes, too.
Jesus set a clear distinction in today’s gospel between earthly matters and spiritual concerns though. “If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
Did you notice that Jesus did go on to tell Nicodemus, about heavenly things, in advance before they happened though? Jesus explained his own crucifixion to Nicodemus, on purpose, before it happened, so that when it did happen, Nicodemus would truly understand that Jesus told him the truth. He really is the son of God. If you remember, it was Nicodemus who went with Joseph Arimathea to prepare the corpse of Jesus for burial after his crucifixion. (Jn 19: 39-42) You can’t help but wonder if Nicodemus remembered this conversation while Jesus was being crucified.
One last interesting bit of information is that Nicodemus is now known as Saint Nicodemus. Yes, a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin actually became a saint in the Catholic church. It just goes to show you, that anyone can become a saint, irregardless as to their background. Nicodemus became a saint because he stood up and defended Jesus when he was accused before the Jewish authorities (Jn 7: 45-51) and also because he helped Joseph Arimathea prepare Christ’s body for burial after his crucifixion.
Nicodemus changed his mindset after his encounter with Christ, and he followed through with it, by his actions. He put his new found faith into practice, by following his heart in defending Christ and taking care of him after his death. That is what the first reading for mass is about today too. The early believers that we read about in today’s first reading also had a new mindset and they followed through with their new found faith, by their actions of love and service to other people as well.
That would be a good thought for the day. Did we come to love Jesus even more deeply during this past season of Lent? If so, have we shown it by our actions, now that Easter is over?
Father Ed Bakker,
Priest & Missioner
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne