Acts 4:23-31 / John 3:1-8
Jesus speaks about spiritual birth: “You must be born from above.”
George Foreman, former heavyweight champion of the world, had been attending Bible classes and was in a prayer group. But he was still dragging his feet spiritually. One night after a fight he sat down in his dressing room and put his head in his hands. Suddenly he noticed the blood from a cut on his head flowing over his hands and dripping down onto his bare feet. Then it hit him. These were the wounds of Jesus: head, feet, and hands. That night Foreman experienced spiritual birth. He turned his life over to Jesus so totally that his handlers sent him to the hospital for head X rays, thinking he had a head injury and needed help.
Have we given ourselves over to Christ, or are we holding something back? “Jesus Christ will be Lord of all, or he will not be Lord at all.” St. Augustine
Whenever we talk about the Holy Spirit, the corresponding image that will come to mind is the dove. The image of the dove gives us the impression of docility and gentleness, simplicity and meekness. We can say that these are mild and peaceful images of the Holy Spirit. But yet there is also another side of the Holy Spirit that we somehow tend to overlook.
In the 1st reading, we heard that when the early Christian community prayed, the house where they were assembled began to rock, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for Spirit is (רוּחַ rûaħ) meaning "breath" and in Greek it is pneuma (πνευμα) which means breath or air. Hence the Holy Spirit is certainly not passive. In fact, the Holy Spirit invigorates passion as in the tongues of flames at Pentecost and also the powerful wind.
Yet we can revert to the passive images that we have of the Holy Spirit and hence curtail the promptings and the movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives. At baptism we are born of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will move us powerfully in the ways of God.
Hence in prayer we must let the Spirit of God breathe in us so that wherever the Spirit blows we will also immediately move with the Spirit and do the will of God.
Nicodemus, the sincere but cautious intellectual, comes to Jesus at night. He is afraid to show openly that he follows Christ. The apostles and the Christian community are persecuted. They are afraid too, but pray for courage. The Spirit makes them bold in proclaiming Christ and in being signs of Christ's presence in his community. Christians are people who are to be reborn in Christ, reborn in the Spirit. Hence, they are people who should remain eternally young. Is our faith timid or bold? Do we dare stand up for the gospel and live our faith openly?
-Lord Jesus, you tell us: no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above; as you move from earthly to heavenly realities:
-Jesus Christ, you tell us: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit; as you purify and strengthen us
-Lord Jesus, you tell us: What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit; as you make of us people of the spirit.
Lord our God, our faith is at times timid and wavering, for we are afraid of being contradicted or ridiculed. Let your Spirit blow in us and give us a bit of his strength, that we may stand up boldly for what we believe and live our faith consistently. We ask you this through Christ our Lord.
- For the newly baptized, that their faith may always remain fresh and young, we pray: - For all the baptized, that the Spirit may keep them from letting their faith becoming apathetic and passive, we pray: - For our Christian communities, that they may boldly proclaim their faith by their spirit of service and compassion, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God, your Holy Spirit changes our offerings of bread and wine into Christ. May he also send down his power on his Christian community, to unite and to renew us again and again, until we dare to proclaim the message of your Son by the witnessing of our lives. We ask you this through Christ our Lord.
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God, you have your own wise ways to carry out your plans; when people try to frustrate them, they cannot be but losers. God, give us your Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit in whom who have been reborn in baptism, and in him keep us ever young of heart and mind, that we may keep serving you with the enthusiasm of our youth. We ask you this through Christ our Lord.