“You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?”

Today’s gospel reading (Jn 3:7b-15) begins by repeating the end of yesterday’s reading.  We are reminded of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus about the need to be born from above through the Holy Spirit.  Nicodemus’s follow-up question, “How can this happen?” (v. 9) prompts Jesus’ response above.  Jesus goes on to say that Nicodemus and those of his mindset do not believe in Jesus earthly, much less heavenly, declarations.  To gain eternal life for those who believe in Him, Jesus goes on, He must be lifted up (on the cross and eventually back to heaven, His origin).  In today’s passage we see that being a teacher, even one of the most knowledgeable, does not mean one has fully embraced the truth.  For those humble enough to be open to inspiration — often the poor, sick, and uneducated — it was much easier to believe Jesus was the promised Messiah.  For those blinded by their own brilliance and learning, the reality of Jesus as Christ was much more difficult to discern.  This is a danger in every age.  There is no authentic scholarship that does not seek the truth and embrace it when found.  So we must not be lured by erudition, reputation, popularity, or eloquence that does not have at its core, and is in fact imbued with, humility seeking truth.  So, also, are we called to pursue knowledge and understanding of the Faith, acknowledging our limited capacity in relation to the eternal God, but realizing that He revealed certain things to us in order that we can come to greater knowledge and love of Him while understanding His plan for us and for all mankind.  Study of Scripture and the Catechism should be an integral — not tangential, occasional, or optional — part of our day to day lives.  Then, only by learning, interiorizing, and living our faith can we  “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pt 3:15).  We should take our cue from Nicodemus.  It certainly seems that, in this episode, he was a true seeker trying to come to an understanding of Jesus.  Ultimately, the admonishment He received from Jesus did not lead to rejection of Him, but defense of Him in front of a hostile gathering of his peers (Jn 7:50-52), and later, belief demonstrted at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:39-40).  Likewise, our honest and open seeking of veritatis should lead to its defense as we end up in contemplation at the cross of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1:23) with the possibility of even being lifted up upon it in defense of the Truth.

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