Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tuesday in the 2nd Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 4:32-37; Psalm 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5; John 3:7b-15
Picture: CC honigbrotpause

You must be born from above…

It’s not difficult to sympathize with Nicodemus. It’s not difficult to see how even a teacher of Israel like him could be perplexed by Jesus’ words. To be born again from above? What could that mean?

I used to belong to a canoeing or kayaking club in school and I really enjoyed it. The school also had a sailing club, but I somehow ended up with the kayakers instead. Sailing seemed so much more complicated and time-consuming. Kayaking had the advantage of being much easier to learn. It afforded a kind of freedom and independence that sailing didn’t seem to. You didn’t have to depend so much on the wind to get to where you wanted to go. Sure, you had to paddle hard, and sometimes even against the current, but that was part of the fun. Even though I haven’t been in a kayak for many years, I still cherish the memories of those days.

And sometimes, when I reflect on my own approach to life – even Christian life – I wonder whether there’s not still something of a kayaker in me, whether there’s not still the same craving for independence and self-reliance, for going places and getting things done on my own steam and in my own way. Even when working with others, I wonder if there isn’t still a tendency to seek to control the agenda, to steer things in my own desired direction. Which is all fine and good, except that life often proves far more unwieldy than a streamlined kayak. Getting to one’s desired destination can often prove to be a task that’s more than a match even for the accomplished kayaker.

Which is why it’s easy for someone like me to miss the true focus of our first reading today. What we heard was an inspiring description of an ideal Christian community. Several key characteristics stand out. There was no needy person among them. They had everything in common. And perhaps most striking of all, the community of believers was of one heart and one mind. Charity born of solidarity rooted in a profound union of minds and hearts. Listening to a description like this, the kayaker in me is moved to paddle off immediately and try to make that ideal a reality by sheer strength of will and muscular effort. I want to set a straight course and convince others to come along. I want to draw up plans and involve others in them, all in the name of teamwork, of course.

But a part of me cannot help wondering if this approach is not somehow contrary to that of which Jesus speaks in the gospel. By remaining very much the kayaker, am I not continuing to live as one born from below rather than one born from above? For isn’t it true that the ideal community described in the first reading is less a product of muscular effort than it is of the breath of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that blows where it wills and defies all attempts to contain it? Of course, this doesn't mean that it requires no effort at all. But could this be effort of a different sort than that to which I'm accustomed? If this is true, then perhaps it’s time that I learnt a different sport. Perhaps it’s time that, together with others, I learnt how to read the wind and to trim my sails, so as to truly arrive at the right destination. Perhaps it’s time I learnt I to sail...

Kayaker or sailor, born from below or from above, which are we?


  1. Thank you for yet another great post, Fr Chris. Makes me want to go "sailing".

    By the way, Father, I hope you'll join Ping.sg as a member and add your blog to the community. Then your posts here will be picked up by the metablog there. And you'll get many more readers among unbelievers. As Jesus said, "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news!"

  2. Oh wait... could be better NOT to join TODAY. It's April Fools' Day. I'm not joking ;-) but the folks at Ping.sg are having fun playing a guessing game on the metablog. So, no posts will appear in an integrated view today, I think. In whatever case, I truly hope your posts will eventually show up in all the good metablogs in the world, starting from Ping.sg and Tomorrow.sg.

  3. Oh... wait. The pings from member blogs are showing up in a page entitled I'm too uncool for stuff like this. So, it's good to register today!

  4. First of all - to share the same sentiments expressed. You have a great blog going and many of your followers read it without comments but gain much in your reflections. It's broadcast can be broadened with these suggestions.
    I was once puzzled when an American visited our office and remarked that "you must paddle your own canoe" when queried about how to extend our markets. Next he said you must pull up your own socks which tickled my Chinese educated colleagues no end.
    Last night Fr. Philip provided us with a thoughtful personal insight on discernment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in a mature faith setting.
    We sail, by relying on the combined strength of our community, to take us to our destination. Sometimes we also need to paddle on our own in order to attain that moment of quietude to view the larger picture. With God's grace, we will arrive together.