By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
In Chapter Three of the Gospel of St. John we read the encounter of Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus after acknowledging that Jesus is a teacher who comes from God, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Being born anew is to be born into the realm of the spiritual. The reply of Nicodemus is representative of his lack of understanding of this spiritual realm when he was talking about an earthly birth. “Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’” (John 3:4)
Being born into the spiritual world is the breakthrough of grace in a soul. It’s the higher world breaking into an earthly world and shatters the glass of self-seeking. The realm of the supernatural or the realm of the divine life breaks in, reconstituting a soul, changes its habits, thinking, perspective and outlook in life. It gets injected with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. With faith it now walks and lives in the spiritual. Hope means ordering its life beyond this world and love means it now acquires the divine life whose essence is to love. The soul who used to be too focused or attached to the things of this world such as wealth, power, pleasure and fame that are not evil in themselves unless it becomes the sole emphasis in life, is now focused on God. Grace which corrects and perfects human nature will now use these same earthly things to further God’s kingdom. Wealth will now be used to help its brothers and sisters both for their spiritual and material needs. Power and fame would now be instruments to help spread the Gospel. Pleasure will now be utilized properly for nourishment, pro-creation and rest rather than be abused as an end in itself. St. Paul who had a lot of zeal to persecute Christians before his conversion used that same zeal with greater intensity to spread the Gospel. Likewise, his intellectual prowess was elevated and perfected by grace to come up with brilliant theological doctrines recorded in his letters.
The dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus continues with our Lord telling Nicodemus how this being born anew is carried out and the two different kinds of birth, biological and spiritual. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-7) Christ is referring to Baptism and the other Sacraments as well as the Holy Spirit, when he talked about the water and the Spirit. For us to be born into the spiritual realm we need to receive the sacraments starting with baptism. The Holy Spirit is present in every sacrament as the dispenser of grace. After our baptism, we will need the other sacraments to make the divine life grow in us. Since we will surely commit sins after baptism, the Sacrament of Confession is necessary to renew our struggle for holiness. We would need the Holy Eucharist for spiritual food and the Sacrament of Confirmation to transition us from a child of God in baptism to a soldier of Christ; ready to do battle against the three main sources of sin: the world, the flesh and the devil. The Sacrament of Matrimony and Holy Orders give us the grace to carry out our spiritual calling or vocation. And the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick aids us in our last moments here in on earth for our journey to our ultimate home. Being born anew is to be a new creation in Christ. “So, whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)