“God’s Transforming Power” by Colleen O’Sullivan
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power, the Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32-35)
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:7b-8)
Lord, may our hearts be open to your transforming grace.
I’ve always wished I could have met Nicodemus. He felt drawn to Jesus. In today’s Gospel, we see this Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin taking his life in his hands, slipping away under cover of darkness to talk to this preacher/teacher/healer so revered by some and equally hated by others. In this same chapter, before the verses we read today, Nicodemus declares that God must have sent Jesus. There’s no other explanation for the things Jesus accomplished. Jesus tells him that if Nicodemus wants to see the Kingdom of God, he needs to be born again. On the surface, Jesus’ words don’t make much sense. Nicodemus was born years ago. He’s already here on earth. It’s impossible to redo that. But consider the process that takes place before birth: A man and a woman come together, and an embryo begins to grow. All sorts of growth and development take place over months. The parents have to make preparations for the impending birth. It’s only after all that that an infant comes into the world.
Maybe Jesus is telling Nicodemus that a spiritual process has to occur for the sort of rebirth he has in mind. Nicodemus’ heart opened his heart to allow Jesus to plant the seeds of the Spirit. The seeds germinated and grew in that fertile, loving heart. As Nicodemus remained open, the Spirit’s work transformed his heart, and Nicodemus became a new person. He will be a child of God, and he will relate to other people differently. Transformation comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit, a grace-filled gift. We can’t change ourselves in this radical manner. It’s God who works on our hearts and in our hearts. Scriptures never tell us whether Nicodemus becomes a Christian, but some transformation certainly seems to occur. He speaks openly for due process of law for Jesus before the Sanhedrin. And after the Crucifixion, he receives Jesus’ body, provides the spices for preparation of the Lord’s body for burial, and helps Joseph of Arimathea ready Jesus’ body to be laid in the tomb. All a far cry from someone who wanted to hide in the dark so others would not discover Nicodemus talking to Jesus.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we again see what God can bring about in people whose hearts are open. Remember how terrified the Apostles were after the Crucifixion? Some of Jesus’ followers gave up and started out for home. Others of their group cowered behind locked doors. Yet they were of one heart and mind in this reading. That only came about through the grace and power of the Resurrection.
Who knows how many believers lived like this and for how long, and just a couple of chapters later (Acts 5:3), we see two Christians who rebel against this, holding everything in common? Just imagine, though, how wonderful it would be if everyone had everything they needed and no one lived in poverty! The trouble is that in our consumer-oriented society, we no longer know the difference between what we need and what we want.
Take some time today to think back over your life to a time when you felt God’s transforming power at work in you. Give thanks for whatever gift you received.