WE have to know not only the expression but also and most importantly the reality of being born again. We all need it. We all are actually meant for it. We have to build up, first, a strong, abiding awareness of it and then our skill for achieving it together with Godâ€™s grace and mercy.
Yes, this time, unlike in our first birth, in this second birth, we have a part to play. Remember St. Augustineâ€™s : â€œGod created us without us. But he cannot save us without us.â€ Thatâ€™s because our life is a life with God. Itâ€™s not only ours entirely. Itâ€™s ours and Godâ€™s.
And like God in his own life, we need to have full responsibility for our life. Itâ€™s a 100%-100% proposition. Everything depends on God. Everything also depends on us. So we have a big part to play in it. We cannot play the spoiled brat who simply receives things from the parents and thinks he can do with them however he pleases. We always have to refer things to God, no matter how exciting and absorbing these things can be.
In the Gospel of St. John, Christ talked about being born again with Nicodemus, one of the leading Jews at Christâ€™s time.Â (3,1-12) â€œUnless a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.â€
The words are crystal clear. Being born again is what enables us to enter the kingdom of God. We cannot remain here on earth, stuck in our natural and material dimensions. We are meant for the God, to partake in his very life, and not just a political understanding of Godâ€™s kingdom.
Expanding on this point, Christ clarifies: â€œFlesh begets flesh. Spirit begets spirit.â€ What is presumed here is that we are meant for a spiritual, supernatural life, not just a purely earthly life.
The Church brings it to our attention right after the Easter octave as if to tell us that the new life we are supposed to have with Christ after his resurrection, the new man we are supposed to be, starts with our being born again.
The meeting and conversation between Christ and Nicodemus are worth noting because they reflect the very way we discover about this need, and the reaction we are likely to have.
Like Nicodemus, we can be very knowledgeable not only in worldly things but also in religion, and yet we can still miss a very crucial point.
This has led our Lord to tell Nicodemus: â€œIf I have spoken of earthly things to you, and you do not believe, how will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly things.â€ Letâ€™s hope we can avoid hearing these words from our Lord. But that means we really have to be consistent with our faith, which is possible only if we are born again.
Also, like Nicodemus we should do our part by going to our Lord and somehow confessing our conversion and faith in Christ. We need to echo the words: â€œWe know that you have come a teacher from God, for no one can work these signs that you work unless God be with him.â€
For sure, given the temper of the times, we need to some extra effort to discern the hands of God not only in the natural wonders we see around, but also and especially in the man-made marvels that we are producing.
Our problem is that we often fail to realize that our human genius, however it is shown, actually comes from God. Itâ€™s not just of our own making, filling us with a blinding sense of self-importance and losing our sense of God.
Again, we have to make adjustments, sometimes big and major adjustments, in the way we think, judge, reason, desire, feel. In all of these operations of our mind and heart, God should be at the middle. In fact, God should be the beginning, end and center, as well. This is a clear sign we are truly born again.
Thatâ€™s always possible. God is never a hindrance to our human activities. On the contrary, God enhances these activities and makes sure that even our littlest, most insignificant activity, humanly speaking, acquires an eternal value with cosmic effects.
In the beginning, just like in any human endeavor, we can be clumsy in doing things with God. But with perseverance, driven by humility and trust in Godâ€™s power, living, thinking, judging, working and speaking with God can become second nature to us.
Letâ€™s be born again, through the water and the Spirit, which Iâ€™ll explain in another occasion. (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)