28th Sunday B – Born From Above
Northern winter is rolling in rapidly. Gone for another six or seven months is the 5:00 am sunrise and birdsong. Sitting quietly and waiting for the dawn to break through the silent trees comes nourishment for contemplative prayer. The stillness of predawn is special. The deep blackness of night eases and the first glimmer of a new day starts to grow in the receding darkness. There’s nothing as good as this time of morning to reflect in solitude on the great mystery of life we call God. It’s a moment for attentive listening, a time to be open to the Holy Spirit who is constantly hovering over and nudging us to wake up. Sometimes we feel like Thomas Merton as he prayed in the early morning: “The sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all” – Thoughts in Solitude, p. 107.
Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? That’s a question we all ask. And pragmatists that most of us are, we might be happy to be told to do this, do that or do the other thing, and hey presto, eternal life will be ours. Maybe the man who approached Jesus had heard him talking about “eternal life”. He was a well-to-do gent but eternal life was missing from his portfolio and he wanted to include it. He was a good religious man who had kept the commandments since his youth, but was lacking in eternal life. To have eternal life, to experience the free-flowing graciousness of God is not our doing but God’s. “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit….You must be born from above” said Jesus to Nicodemus – John 3: 5-7. All of us reading this have been baptised, born from above. However, the grace of baptism tends to remain dormant in us until it is stirred from above and within by the Spirit of God.
Sir Kenneth Clarke, a one time leading British historian and broadcaster, was sitting quietly in a church when something stirred inside his soul. “For a few minutes my whole being was irradiated with a kind of heavenly joy, far more intense than anything I had ever known.” A touch of eternal life? The totally unexpected experience enthralled him and he wondered what to do about it. He was a general sort of Christian at the time but not a religious person in any formal sense. Eventually he decided not to respond to the experience lest his family and friends would think he had gone off the deep end. “I was too deeply imbedded in world affairs to change course, but no doubt I had felt the finger of God” he wrote afterwards. Still, not many years later, before his death in 1983 he was received into the Catholic Church. There’s food for thought in that.
Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. Jesus spoke these words to the rich man while looking at him with love in his heart. Offering him a warm and loving invitation Jesus invited the man into a deeper kind of life – a life he would find through giving his wealth to the poor and following him….. A man named Dale Schroeder grew up poor in Iowa. He neither married nor had children, and worked as a carpenter at the same company for 67 years, and owned only two jeans. He spent his life savings to send 33 poor students to University. Today, the 33 strangers have formed a group and call themselves “Dale’s kids”. Composed of doctors, teachers and therapists they honour Schroeder for changing their lives. Did Mr. Schroeder opt for eternal life?
Fr. QQ. – 10/06/2021