There are two main Bible translations used by Catholics, each also with a newer version. First, there is the New American Bible (from which we get our Lectionary readings) along with the newer New American Bible – Revised Edition. Then, there is the more “word for word” translation of the Revised Standard Version. It too has a newer version: the New Revised Standard Version (that also has a Catholic edition – NRSVCE). Seminary classes and some Scripture study courses will use the NRSV or NRSVCE translations.
In today’s Gospel passage, Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night. This is the beginning of John 3. It is significant that the immediately preceding verse that ends Chapter 2 says in the NRSVCE of Jesus, “for he himself knew what was in everyone.” So, Jesus knew what was in Nicodemus. He knows what is in us.
Nicodemus is described as a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. Unlike with other Pharisees, Jesus does not criticize Nicodemus. Knowing what was in his heart, Jesus engaged him. After the Crucifixion, it would be Nicodemus who brought the burial spices for Jesus. Not just a little, but about one hundred pounds of spices. In this way, he would give Jesus a royal burial.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born from above in order to see the kingdom of God. The original word has a double meaning. Both “from above” and “again.” Nicodemus only picks up on the second meaning, so Jesus explains it again by providing separate words to illustrate both meanings. By water and the Spirit. In other words, both anew and from above. In the end of the passage, Jesus returns to the same word with the double meaning. Again, our translation in the Lectionary only reflects the one meaning – “from above.”
Being born again and being born from above. Jesus is talking about Baptism. It is the door to the other sacraments. It is truly a rebirth for us as children of God. A rebirth of both water and the Spirit. We are claimed for Christ. We receive remission of both personal sin and original sin.
We have been given a great gift. But do we really appreciate what it means to be a baptized Catholic? Have we taken to heart that our baptismal priesthood allows us to participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ? That we are permanently and irrevocably changed by our Baptism…sealed on our soul with an indelible mark?
What do we choose to do with this gift? Do we allow our entire Christian life to spring forth from that source of new life in Christ? Where would be without it?