FROM THE CHAPEL OF CASA SANTA MARTA
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
"Being born of the Spirit"
Monday, April 20, 2020
Let us pray today for men and women who have a political vocation: politics is a high form of charity. For political parties in different countries, so that in this moment of pandemic they seek together the good of the country and not the good of their party.
This man, Nicodemus, is a leader of the Jews, an authoritative man; he felt the need to go to Jesus. He went at night, because he had to do with a little balance, because those who went to talk with Jesus were not looked at well (cf. Jn 3: 2). He is a righteous Pharisee, because not all Pharisees are bad: no, no; there were also righteous Pharisees. This is a righteous Pharisee. He felt restlessness, because he is a man who had read the prophets and knew that what Jesus did had been announced by the prophets. He felt restlessness and went to talk to Jesus. "Rabbi, we know that you came from God as Master" (v. 2): it is a confession, up to a certain point. "No one in fact can perform these signs that you do, if God is not with him" (v. 2). And it stops. He stops in front of the "therefore": If I say this ... then! ... And Jesus replied. He answered mysteriously, as he, Nicodemus, did not expect. He replied with that figure of birth: "if one is not born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (v. 3). And he, Nicodemus, feels confusion, does not understand and takes ad litteram that answer of Jesus: "but how can one be born if one is an adult, a great person?" (see v. 4) Being born from above, being born from the Spirit. It is the leap that Nicodemus' confession must make and he does not know how to do it. Because the Spirit is unpredictable. The definition of the Spirit that Jesus gives here is interesting: "The wind blows where it wants and you hear its voice, but you don't know where it comes from or where it goes: so is anyone born of the Spirit" (v. 8), that is, free. A person who allows himself to be carried on both sides by the Holy Spirit: this is the freedom of the Spirit. And who does this is a docile person and here we talk about docility to the Spirit.
Being a Christian is not just fulfilling the Commandments: they must be done, this is true; but if you stop there, you are not a good Christian. Being a Christian is letting the Spirit go inside you and take you, take you where he wants. In our Christian life many times we stop like Nicodemus, before the "therefore", we do not know the step to take, we do not know how to do it or we do not have faith in God to take this step and let the Spirit enter. To be born again is to let the Spirit enter us and the Spirit to guide me and not me and here: free, with this freedom of the Spirit that you will never know where you will end up.
The apostles, who were in the Upper Room, when the Spirit came, preached with that courage, that frankness (cf. Acts 2: 1-13) ... they did not know that this would happen; and they did it, because the Spirit guided them. The Christian must never stop only at the fulfillment of the Commandments: it must be done, but go further, towards this new birth which is the birth in the Spirit, which gives you the freedom of the Spirit.
This is what happened to this first reading Christian community after John and Peter returned from the interrogation they had with the priests. These went to their brothers in this community and reported what the chief priests and the elders had told them. And the community, when they heard this, all together, got a little scared. (cf Acts 4,23) And what did they do? To pray. They didn't stop at prudential measures, "no, now let's do this, let's go a little more calm ...": no. To pray. That it was the Spirit who told them what they should do. They raised their voice to God saying "Lord" (v. 24) and pray. This beautiful prayer of a dark moment, of a moment that must make decisions and do not know what to do. They want to be born of the Spirit, they open their hearts to the Spirit: let him say it ... And they ask: "Lord, Herod, Pontius Pilate with the nations and peoples of Israel have allied themselves against your Holy Spirit and Jesus" (cf. v.27 ), tell the story and say: "Lord, do something!". "And now, Lord, look at their threats - those of the group of priests - and allow your servants to proclaim your word with all frankness" (v.29) ask for frankness, courage, not to be afraid: «Reaching out your hand so that healings, signs and wonders are performed in the name of Jesus». (v.30) "And when they had finished the prayer, the place where they were gathered trembled, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the Word of God with frankness." (v.31) A second Pentecost happened here.
In the face of difficulties, in front of a closed door, which they did not know how to go on, they go to the Lord, they open their hearts and the Spirit comes and gives them what they need and they go out to preach, courageously, and on. This is born from the Spirit, this is not to stop at the "therefore", the "therefore" of the things I have always done, the "therefore" after the Commandments, the "therefore" after religious habits: no! This is being born again. And how do you prepare one to be born again? With prayer. Prayer is the one that opens the door to the Spirit and gives us this freedom, this frankness, this courage of the Holy Spirit. That you will never know where it will take you. But it is the Spirit.
May the Lord help us to always be open to the Spirit, because he will carry us forward in our life of service to the Lord.
Prayer for spiritual communion
At your feet, O my Jesus, I bow down and offer you the repentance of my contrite heart that abysses itself in its nothingness and in your holy presence. I adore you in the sacrament of your love, the Eucharist. I wish to receive you in the poor abode that my heart offers you; waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion I want to possess you in spirit. Come to me, oh my Jesus, that I come to you. May your love inflame my whole being for life and death. I believe in you, I hope in you, I love you.
FULL TEXT + Image Source: Vatican.va - Translation from Italian