Monday, 2nd Week of Easter
We heard in today’s gospel reading Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus tells the Israelite elder: “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” According to Bishop Robert Barron, Jesus is speaking with great directness here about metanoia. What is this metanoia required to enter the Kingdom? It is “the change of attitude required before one is capable of living in the energy of the Incarnation.” (Barron)
Bishop Barron further comments, “Jesus senses that Nicodemus, the great ‘teacher of Israel,’ is caught in the net of ego concerns, still clinging fearfully to his power and status, still exulting in his grasp of the religious traditions of his people.” And Jesus’ concerns are confirmed by the almost comic rationalism of Nicodemus’ response to his invitation to rebirth: “How can a person once grown old be born again?” “Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” While Jesus speaks the evocative and analogical language of the soul, Nicodemus hears with the ears of the ego. (Barron)
Nicodemus’ not-so-subtle use of his rational power shows how much he wants to control the conversation. Allow me to quote Bishop Barron on this once again: “It is precisely that fearful rationalism which Nicodemus must abandon in the painful process of rebirth and reconfiguration of the soul.”
In the case of Nicodemus, it is fearful rationalism. How about you? What do you have to surrender to be born from above? What do you have to let go to enter the kingdom of God? What “ego agenda” do you have that you must abandon in order to be on the same agenda page with God? Is it selfish desire that prevents you from desiring God deeply? Is it selfish ambition that runs counter to God’s plan for you? Is it selfish inclination that averts you from seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Is it selfish interest that stifles the growth of the Kingdom in you and its realization in the here and now? Metanoia or conversion is basically moving from ego-centeredness to God-centeredness.
Metanoia is not just a “Lenten thing,” it is an “all-season thing.” So, may this Easter season be, for each of us, a time of opening ourselves to the grace of metanoia – of sincere repentance and constant conversion.