Monday of the Second Week of Easter
In these days following the Easter octave, the Church invites us to reflect on how, in the Acts of the Apostles, we see how the Holy Spirit guides and animates the Church as it witnesses to Christ and his resurrection in and for the world. The Gospel readings this week invite us to recall the ways that Jesus revealed himself to the world during the years that preceded his passion, death, and resurrection. Empowered by the Spirit that “teaches us all things,” we are now enabled to better understand and receive the good news that Jesus already reveals in his early ministry. It is good to return to Jesus’ teaching in light of the resurrection, for if we fail to recall the ever-greater depth and breadth of the teaching that Jesus offers us about himself throughout his life, we risk misinterpreting Christ’s resurrection in a way that makes it part of a gnostic system or turns it into an instrument in a self-help toolkit.
Near the start of John’s Gospel, after Jesus has cleansed the temple, Nicodemus finds himself mysteriously drawn to Jesus. And yet, out of concern for his public position as a leader in the Jewish community, Nicodemus does not listen to Jesus’ teachings openly, but rather visits him under the cover of darkness. Though it might seem that it would be better for Nicodemus to listen to Jesus in the open, we should stop to reflect on the fact that Jesus meets Nicodemus at the place where Nicodemus comes to find him, even though it is not with the others in the open. Although on the last day, “nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Cf. Lk 12:2), let us notice how discerning Jesus himself was in what he said and how he said it, both publicly and “in secret.”
Jesus wishes to speak the Word (that he himself is) in a way that people can receive it, but that does not mean that they understand it immediately. Jesus says to Peter at the Last Supper, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand” (Jn 13:7). Likewise, what Jesus tells Nicodemus about being “born from above” is clearly baffling to Nicodemus in the moment. We might be amused at how literally Nicodemus understands this new birth that Jesus indicated, but perhaps he was not so far off the mark. After all, Jesus says, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). Let us carefully ponder Jesus’ words and ask for the grace that we need to truly be born of the Spirit so that we might see the Kingdom of God.