“Have you been born again?” Some of you have perhaps been caught off guard and asked this question. Some of you have come from parts of the Church where you may have asked this question of others. It is a question that can have different meaning to different Christians. It typically refers, in the mind and mouth of an “evangelical” Christian, to the moment a person accepts Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Such a moment can be a most wonderful experience. It was for me, in college, an experience that changed my life.
In this Sunday’s gospel (John 3:1-17), Jesus tells us very strongly that “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” We must be born again if we are truly to experience the mystery of God—from within. What is it, however, to be “born from above”, to be born again? Is it the moment of acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior? I would venture to say that being born from above or again, is actually more than this. Indeed, it is more Christ’s doing than our doing, and can never be reduced to our awareness of Christ. Christ, who is greater than our awareness, takes the initiative in the mystery of divine rebirth. “You did not choose me but I chose you.” (John 15:16)
To be born from above is to be communicated grace, which grants us to participate in the life of God. New birth means new life. Jesus communicates the grace of new life in Him freely, gratuitously, well before we have reached the maturity needed to accept Him as Lord and Savior. Such is why we Baptize children. We are born again in Baptism, and every time Jesus embraces us. In a special way, when we receive the Eucharist, we are born again.
S. Thomas Aquinas (+1274) tells us that "the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord cleanses the soul from sin, enlightens the mind to know God, inflames the will and the affections with the love of God, fills the memory with spiritual sweetness, confirms the entire person in good, multiplies the merits of a good life, leads us to our everlasting home, and re-animates the body to eternal life."
Yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector