genesis 12:1-4 romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-17 psalm 121
Last week we read that Adam and Eve ate the fruit and then hid from God. Because they sin, disobey and cut themselves off from the Father, it results in their exile. Since then, humans live under the curse of suffering, sin and death. Paul writes about the spread of sin in Romans. Like a deadly virus, sin is easily transmitted from person to person. God's remedy is Jesus.
In Genesis 12 God works against the curse. He tells Abram, "I will bless you. You will be a blessing to all the families in the earth." Being blessed is not a passive process, Abram must cooperate. When God tells Abram, "You go" Abram has to leave everything--his home and family. It is a spiritual law: only an empty container can be filled. Abram's heart stripped of the security of home, can receive God's promise of a new family in a new land. It is painful, but it is necessary. Jesus will make the same demands of His disciples.
God does not give details about the process, He gives Abram a promise, "I will show you where." Abram has to give up control; he must trust. Like us, he wants clarity, he wants concrete details, but he gets none. Real faith is often lived in darkness. In the spiritual classic, Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross explains how union with God entails a long purification which he calls the dark night of the senses and the dark night of the soul. These dark nights are painful processes which prepare us for theosis (union).
With that in mind, let's look at the Nicodemus story. He is a Pharisee and a powerful leader who comes to Jesus at night. Reading the text symbolically, Nicodemus is you or I in search of the Truth. Sadly, few of us can grasp the depth of meaning in Jesus' words.
Nicodemus has a set of assumptions and he is distracted by worldly concerns. When Jesus says that he must be born from above--meaning an act of God's healing power--Nicodemus is confused and thinks that he must be born again. Jesus says we are begotten by water and the Spirit, a reference to baptism, but also His death on the cross. When He died, Jesus handed over His Spirit. When He was pierced by a lance water (and blood) flowed out.
In our union with Jesus we are begotten as children of God sharing in His divine life. Only those in Christ and filled with Christ enter the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, we still find ourselves in the dark; we will remain, to some extent, creatures of the night until Jesus returns. John of the Cross says we must strip ourselves of the sinful desires of the ego. The truth is we do not love God enough and we are ruled by false attachments too much. Our Father knows that we can not do it alone. He gives us His Spirit and washes us clean of sin. God offers us freedom, but like Abram we must leave behind our doubts and sins. We must also, in a sense, leave the false security of home and family, all that we hold dear. For mortals this is not an option. Everyone will die and we will leave behind family, home, everything. For Christians, this is an active life choice before we die.
The purpose of Lent is to make a practice run at dying. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." It is only in the emptiness of death that we can be filled with resurrection life.
In the meantime, life will often be a struggle in the night. If you're feeling like you are in the dark, know that Jesus is there with you. Take heart, darkness and confusion can be the path to union.
Remember, we must be emptied of everything else before we can be filled with Him. He desires us more than we can imagine, let us desire Him as well.