16 April 2007

Speak the Word with all boldness

2nd Week of Easter (M): Acts 4.23-31 and John 3.1-8
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX


If we must be born again of water and spirit in order to see the Kingdom of God, we have to ask: why isn’t our first birth good enough to get us into the Kingdom? Surely, we want to say that our full entrance into creation, our completed exit from the womb, is sufficient for seeing and enjoying the Kingdom. Isn’t it true that “created things” serve as revelations of God—incomplete and fragile, yes; but nonetheless they are glimpses of divinity? And why would we want to strain the limits of reasonable discourse by suggesting that there is some sort of additional Thing To Be Done or believed or practiced in order to partake in the divine nature? Isn’t just being a creature of the divine enough? Aren’t we just promoting a sort of gatekeeping mentality here? This “born again” gibberish is too easily abused by those wanting to keep the church—what was the phrase? Oh yes!—“small and faithful.” More like “tiny and closed minded!” So, why isn’t just being born one time good enough to participate in the divine nature? Being “born from above” sounds privileged and classist.

New life requires new birth. When you are washed in the waters of baptism and fortified by the Spirit in confirmation, you are indelibly marked as one who belongs to Christ. Permanently branded as one who has consented to being taught the faith and as one willing to step up and onto the arduous trek from slavery to sin to liberation from bondage to the daily exercise of holiness to a natural perfection in this life and eventually a supernatural perfection in the afterlife—a life lived eternally face-to-face with Christ—as God. Yes, your newest and last life as God. Your life in Beauty and the life you must live until you reach the Beatific Life is started, given birth, if you will, by dying with Christ in the waters of baptism and rising with him, freed from the slavery of sin. Jesus says, “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.” We have our flesh from the womb. Now we need our spirit from the Spirit.

To what end? I mean, why all the trouble here about new birth, new spirit, new this and that? We have Jesus’ teachings, his instructions for good behavior; we have the powerful witness of his exemplary death and the wonderful image of his transformation into New Life. Aren’t we just talking about the need for a more self-reflective way of living, a more conscious effort at living holistically with earth and others? Um, no. Not quite. Good Friday’s Blood and Guts and Easter’s Empty Tomb are not about shrinking our footprint on earth or becoming chummier with our chosen families. We are called to a new life through a new birth so that we can do all the things our Lord has given us to do in his name. If you will be Christ, you must be born again as Christ!

Taking note of their recent persecution, Peter and John lay claim to a prophetic heritage going back to their father, David. They pray, “…Lord, take note of [our persecutors’] threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness…” The ground shakes. They are filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preach the Word with all the boldness of ones born anew in the Spirit of Christ! Ah, glimpses of Pentecost so soon…

We must be reborn of water and spirit so that we our lives now can be transformed into lives given wholly to Christ and his work. There is no other reason for us to be here this morning. Do others look at your life and see the signs and wonders of the Spirit loosed? Do they see a new creature? If not, pray: “Lord, give me, your servant, a tongue to speak your Word with boldness.” Stand still. And wait for the quake that will rock your soul.


  1. auschwitz4210:41 AM

    Fr. P, your comments about the heretics of our time, and how great it will be when they are passed on, misses the key point. It is the bishops and cardinals and popes of the past and present who have allowed them to remain.
    Last I checked the Pres of Marquette U was a Jesuit.
    You note in your latest post , the neeed to be reborn of water and the spirit. Seriously Fr. the path to Salvation is either invincible ignorance or desire or being nice. What is with this water requirement. Since V2 all the rules are out the door. http://www.culturewars.com/2006/Amy_Welborn.htm

  2. Auschwitz42,

    Thanks for commenting...

    I don't think I missed that point at all. That your bishop or Pope fails to punish you for your heresy cannot be an excuse (or a reason) to continue teaching heresy.

    The President of Marquette Univ is indeed a Jesuit. As a Dominican, I will simply nod and move on...

    I don't understand your comment about being nice or invincibly ignorant in order to be saved. The "water requirement" is Jesus' idea not mine.

    Fr. Philip, OP