Nicodemus, Model of Catechumens
I find myself feeling a certain awe when I am with those in the RCIA. Something wonderful is happening in their lives. In words used in today’s gospel the Spirit is bringing into them something from above. They have questions and challenges but in the end it seems catechists and celebrant step back, and the persons to be baptized stand open before God, while God works in them.
Today is our second of three days with Nicodemus this week. Jesus challenges him to be born anew, to a new way in which God is at work. Jesus gives him a parable about the wind, and draws from it, that like the wind that cannot be controlled, so is the mystery, the freedom of God. What a good example are those newly baptized who have the seed of new life carried to them by the Spirit, it will be born within them and will grow to something new.
In the middle of our reading the conversation shifts. It is no longer Jesus and Nicodemus, but the faith community and Israel who are in dialogue. ‘We testify to what we have seen, you people do not accept our testimony’. We are in the days of mystagogy, the 50 days of celebrating the Resurrection and the time in the early church when those baptized were taught about their faith. There was much for them to learn, especially as they were celebrating a mystery that could only now be fully explored and entered into. We have welcomed those newly baptized at Easter this year. Even if our parish or the religious community in which we live did not celebrate a baptism, we join the community of the larger Church in celebrating those baptized. We by our faith during Lent witnessed to them, some in prayer others by example. And they have helped us by surrendering to the mystery of the breath of the Spirit working in them. They have answered the question of Nicodemus, "How can this happen?"
The gospel ends today with a summary of faith. John tells us this is where the Spirit leads us: Jesus is from the Father, the one above. He will be lifted up as was the serpent in the desert during the Exodus, and will be our Savior. All who believe will have eternal life.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.