Jesus in the Darkness of Our Lives
Nicodemus in the Gospel today came to Jesus 'by night'. I believe that the mention that he came to Jesus by night is significant. He was coming out of a certain kind of darkness. He came with the feeling that there had to be a change in his life.
It is mentioned in the passage that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Now the Pharisees were the religious people of the time and were more than any others close adherents to the Law. We could assume that keeping the commandments and living a good life was very important to Nicodemus. Why do you suppose he thought that he needed to change? It was probably because he knew that he could not keep the law perfectly (no one in this whole world can) so in his mind, no matter what he did he could not make himself acceptable to God. In fact he couldn't make himself acceptable to himself. There was still something lacking.
Nicodemus, so we are told was also a ruler of the Jews and a teacher of Israel. Presumably a person in that position knew a great deal about God. You know as well as I do, that you can have a great deal of knowledge about God and not know God. Sometimes knowledge about God is a substitution for knowing God. Keikegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian said at one time that many people coming to a crossroad where there was a sign, "Heaven" pointing in one direction and another sign "Lecture on Heaven" pointing in the other, would go to the lecture on heaven everytime. Why? Because it didn't demand any change or any involvement. Of course their lives would not be any different because of it. Nicodemus might have been one of those people who knew a lot about God, but deep within, still felt separated from God. So he came to Jesus, who he thought might have an answer to the life that he sought, and he came to Jesus by night..
In a lot of ways, the night is not far off from any of us. . Someone has said that most people live a life of quiet desperation. Michel Quoist expresses some the feelings that many of us have a certain times of our lives in a prayer It is Dark Here is some of that prayer:
it is dark.
is an effort, everything is difficult, and I am heavy-footed and
slow. Every morning I am overwhelmed by the thought of another day
it is dark. Lord, are you here in my darkness?
(Michel Quoist Prayers, Sheen and Ward. N.Y. 1963, p. 138)
Some of us in varying degrees have these kind of feelings, maybe not as intense, but nevertheless they are there. So with Nicodemus in the Gospel story, we too come to Jesus by night.
does Jesus say? He says, "You have to be born anew". It is
an interesting word that he uses because it can mean 'born anew',
'born again'. or 'born from above'.. No matter how you put it, it
means a dramatic change in your life. It means a transformation that
only God can bring about. Jesus, of course, was talking about being
born of the spirit. I don't think that it is a once and for all
experience. It is one that we can and need to experience time and
time again as the growth in the spirit takes place. There is no
growth that I know of that just takes place at one time. It usually a
slow process. I believe that our growth in the spirit is life long journey.
There are many times in my life that I come with Nicodemus to Jesus by night, and I hear Jesus' words that 'You must be born anew", born again" "born from above" .
Born of the Spirit meant for me surrendering to the Spirit. When I realized that the Spirit was working in my life it was a glorious thing but I know that I must continually surrender to the Spirit and to keep my eyers and heart open to be continually aware of the Holy Spirit working in my life opening my life to all kinds of wondrous things that I would not have seen in my darkness. The surrender to the Holy Spirit makes me aware that I am on a journey that never ends. It is like Abraham -being called to a place that he did not know. The Spirit blows where it will and you don't know where it will blow next. It is a growth experience and I have found many things along the way to help me be aware of what the Spirit is doing in my life just as St. Paul says in Romans 8:16, "It is that very Spirit (of God) bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God"
This spiritual rebirth gives me the feeling of being trully human and truly alive. What is more important than feeling alive? People really need the rebirth that Jesus talks about here. Remember in the movie, The Sixth Sense, when the boy says "I see dead people, but they don't know that they are dead" . Look around! You might see the same thing. There are a lot of people out there breathing but they are not alive, I mean, truly alive. They have no passionate joy or agonizing sorrow.
When I am in touch with the spirit I do feel alive. I love that play by Thorton Wilder Our Town. I know I've talked about it before but it is such a good story with such a good lesson. Tony Campola has a wonderful description of it as it relates the Holy Spirit working in our lives:
In Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, the main character, Emily, discovers the joy of being fully alive too late. After she is dead, she pleads with the spirits to allow her to return and look in on one day of her life, one last time. She picks her twelfth birthday.
Emily is more than dismayed as she recognizes how little the people she loves really comprehend the joys of life or experience them with any depth of awareness. She cries out to be taken away, to not have to watch any more of their inattention to the preciousness of life. Her parting words are, "Good-bye! Good-bye, world. Good-bye, Grovers Comers ... Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking... and Mamas sunflowers, and food and coffee. And even ironed dresses and hot baths. . . sleeping and waking up. O earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you." She stoops, hesitates, and asks with tears in her eyes, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Eh? --' every minute?"
(Tony Campolo Let Me Tell You a Story, Word Publishing, Nashville, 2000, p. 75)
This a good question. The Holy Spirit is at work in us, trying to make us more alive every day. One mark of spiritual growth is an expanding awareness of the glories of our everyday experience--a growing sense of how precious the ordinary really is.
I recently heard of a man who had awakened one morning at 5 am. and had the presence of mind to realize that he was having a heart attack. His wife battled through winter and snow to get him to the hospital. As he drew along side of the emergency room, his heart stopped. He described what we've all seen from time to time in reality or on TV, that is someone virtually sitting on his chest and pounding it. After a few minutes he came back to life. He described his experience:
Now I am recovering on my farm. Most certainly , I have been born again. The morning looks brighter, the Spring season is thrilling, and people who had been uninteresting to me have new value. I have a new awareness of life.
You don't have to have a near death experience like that man but through the spirit you can have a new awareness of life like that man. It like dying and rising again
It was night when Nicodemus came to Jesus. He talked about being born of the Spirit as an answer to the darkness and the deadness of the night. It is an invitation. to Nicodemus to live a new life. It is an invitation to us, even in our darkest hour to surrender to the Spirit to open ourselves to the work of the Spirit in our lives. It is an invitation to come alive.
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Each year, thousands of women and children become homeless as a result of domestic violence. "The Goddess Within" music project is designed to empower those whose lives have been affected by domestic abuse and to raise awareness of this issue.
"The Goddess Within" compilation album will showcase artists and their songs, written for or relating to those escaping the cycle of violence. The C.D. will be distributed throughout North America and proceeds from the sale of the C.D. will be donated to women's shelters.
More information on the CD is available at ARTISTS FOR CHANGE
My daughter Carly
is featured on the album with her
song The Mask.
Another site to access is Ending Domestic Abuse