One of the great things about being Catholic, I think, is the celebration of Easter. We do it up right, and keep doing it for fifty days! In fact, just yesterday we completed our celebration of Easter Day, which lasts for eight full days. It certainly makes sense to us that the joy of our salvation should be celebrated with great festivity, and we shouldn’t be so eager to toss the lilies out of the church (even if I am allergic to them)!
Today we begin the second phase of our Easter celebration. Having completed the Octave of Easter, we now begin the preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the first Apostles, and later to each Christian. We have in our Gospel today the emergence of the interesting figure of Nicodemus. He was a Jew, and one of the Pharisees. But he found Jesus and his message compelling, so a few times in John’s Gospel we get to hear from him. Even though the rest of the Pharisees flat out rejected Jesus, Nicodemus knew that Jesus couldn’t be ignored. There was something to this Jesus, and he wanted to get to the bottom of it. We don’t know if Nicodemus ever fully, publicly accepted Jesus, but he took many steps on the way.
Today Nicodemus and Jesus speak about being born again, born of the Spirit. This for us is a process of accepting the Gospel in faith, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and then living as a people reborn. Although we can point to our Confirmation day, and even the day of our Baptism as days when we received the Holy Spirit, the process of accepting the Gospel in faith and living as a people reborn in the Spirit is one that takes the rest of our lives. What we celebrate with joy today is that we are on that journey. Because of the Resurrection of Our Lord and his gift of the Holy Spirit, we can now live according to the Spirit’s direction in our lives, confident that that Holy Spirit will give us the gifts and courage to do what we are called to do. The Apostles did that in today’s first reading, and now we must do the same.