On the day Jesus died, two men appear from under the shadow of the cross. They are rich men, both with considerable political power. Yet they were both touched at some point in their past by this son of Man. One of them was a religious leader: Nicodemus. We first meet him in the fear of the night. He visits Jesus. Perhaps it is their first meeting. He came with faith.
And almost immediately, as if Jesus trusts him too, Jesus starts talking about being born again, of water and the spirit. For any man who has seen the birth of a baby, it is clear what being “born of water” means. We all have been born of water. But what does it mean to be born of the spirit? We men would do well to wonder this. Was Jesus thinking about his strange teaching when a few months later he would come up on a broken man, blind from birth?
The disciples were there then and asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” When this young boy found his way into the world by water, how did his parents respond? They they want him? Were they abusive? We don’t know. We do know about their answer when the deformities of this boy’s youth had been taken away in the prime of his manhood: “We know this is our son, and we know he was born blind, but how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.”
The young man speaks for himself. The authorities claim, “We don’t know where this Jesus comes from.” His parents were afraid of the authorities but this man who Jesus touched stands up with a bit attitude, “do you want to be his disciples too?” Then he gets real lippy, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They kick him out.
This young man had been born of water and the spirit. And I don’t think his being born of the Spirit was primarily about him coming to see who Jesus was. The young man had a voice now. Something had changed in him, his confidence rose. This is a man of the Cross. He stood up in the day to do what Nicodemus could only do by dark.
If you’re like me, you love this world. And you feel a terrible tenderness for humanity, the evil it lives with and the death it must face. And for all your doubt, you have come to the somewhat unshakable conviction that evil and death were faced square on some two thousand years ago. The teaching and deeds and death of a Jewish peasant swirls through your heart almost daily.
You conclude that though God doesn’t do it, hadn’t done it before, or yet again, the resurrection happened, with Jesus’ body. In this once in million years act, you see in it the celebration of life and promise of living without evil or death. You sense that the longings of the human heart were fulfilled in that moment. You know it isn’t escapist, because while you spend the days dwelling in your issues, you see marks of life sprouting all around. You catch faint echoes of a deep love dwelling strongly in dark places. And when you follow the reverberations of this hope, you find yourself just a little bit more every day living into your destiny and becoming the person you feel just right about. You find yourself strong, a healer, whose breath gets taken away sometimes by the world’s landscapes and the humans dwelling upon them.
That’s why I aspire to apprentice in the healing ministry Jesus began. That’s why I feel called to dwell on and eventually teach the historical origins of the man and his earliest followers. That’s why I have compiled this platform of resources for contemplation– for like-minded individuals and communities seeking to share life together and their concern for this world and its people.
THE MAN BORN TO FARMING: Wendell Berry
The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming, whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing.He has seen the light lie down in the dung heap,and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.What miraculous seed has he swallowed that the enending sentence of his love flows out of his mouthlike a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water descending in the dark?…
Zechariah father of John the Baptist
Augustine of Hippo
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Teresa of Avila
St. John of the Cross
Ignatius of Loyola
St. Therese of Lisieux
Adrian van Kaam
It is a cold November morning on the streets of Boulder Colorado. My wife and I find ourselves welling with compassion. We see a homeless man begging on the streets outside the local starbucks. We pass him at first. But a sense of concern comes bubbling up. We turn back, invite him in for some breakfast with us. His is a likely story. He needs money for bus tickets to see his parents. As we share ourselves with this man, I can’t help but notice his shirt. It reads, “John 316”. I say, “Where did you get that shirt?” He replies, “somewhere. I don’t know.” “Do you know that is a reference to the Bible?” My wife happens to have her bible on her. We open it, share its message with the young man and give him the book. As we are leaving, I wad up a 50 dollar bill inside some ones. “This is all I have,” I say. Who knows when he found the 50 or what he used it for. I sense in that moment a rightness about life, that we are doing something that matters to God who was mysteriously present with this man even before we arrived.
I suspect I need to continually make room in my life for encounters like these and hope that if I ever find myself on the streets I would have the grace to be patronized by a young privileged couple discovering the world. Why did we do it? Perhaps out of some half-selfish motive. But as I look back on it know, I see it may have been full of right inspirations as three beloved children of God experienced the fingerprints of the creator networking us together in a sacred dance of transformation.