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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 3, 1-8

There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews,

who came to Jesus by night and said, 'Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.'

Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.

Nicodemus said, 'How can anyone who is already old be born? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born?'

Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit;

what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Do not be surprised when I say: You must be born from above.

The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this Easter time, the liturgy opens up the pages of the Gospel to the third chapter of the Gospel according to John and presents us with Nicodemus, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, who was pious and without prejudice. In previous chapters, the Evangelist introduced the theme of faith with the calling of the first disciples and the signs with which Jesus began to reveal his mystery. Now, the Gospel tells of Nicodemus, the first of a new generation, born not of the law of the flesh, but of the power of the Spirit. The Evangelist recounts the first encounter between him and the young rabbi from Nazareth. Nicodemus grew to hold Jesus in high esteem, but he was afraid to express it publicly. He chose, therefore, to meet him at night. For the Evangelist, the encounter at night conveys something more than just simply the fear Nicodemus had of being seen. In truth, it describes the journey of a man who wants to believe and who therefore passes from the night of unbelief to the light of Jesus. He is still in the darkness of night, but his “going toward Jesus” expresses his desire to hear a word spoken for his life. The Evangelist does not say anything about what Nicodemus wanted to ask Jesus. He had a religious respect for the young rabbi: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” The signs that Jesus performed amazed him. He knew full well that all of this came from God, even though Jesus had not been educated in the established rabbinical schools of the time. But in Nicodemus, a learned man and scholar of the law, there is a beautiful curiosity and, however, he engages with Jesus as equals, rabbi to rabbi. After listening to Nicodemus, Jesus seems to interrupt him, without waiting for his question, and anticipates Nicodemus’ question to explain the essential condition for salvation is born “from above”. The Evangelist recounts Jesus saying two Greek words that have a double meaning: “from above” or “again”, and “to be born” or “to be generated”. In short, Jesus says to believe it is necessary to allow oneself to be born again through God because life comes “from above” not from oneself, not from tradition, even religious tradition, like that of Nicodemus. “To see the kingdom of God” means to see Jesus as one who saves and liberates us from the slavery of evil and from ourselves. Nicodemus, perhaps slightly irritated, responds, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?” Jesus does not enumerate a series of steps to take or precepts to observe, but maintains the need for a total change of life, all the way to the very core. To be reborn does not mean to do something more or thinking in some other way. To be reborn means to accept in their heart the Spirit of God that recreates life. His spiritual breath transforms hearts until they are new, able to love and to dare as never before imagined. The prophet Ezekiel writes, “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ez 11:19-20). That night the prophet’s words became flesh in the elderly Pharisee and gave him the energy of new life: he became a disciple of Jesus.

Memory of the Poor