Today, «a ruler of the Jews» (Jn 3:1) comes to Jesus. The Gospel says he does it by night: what would his comrades say should they find out? In Jesus' teachings we find a baptismal catechesis that, most surely, circulated in the Evangelist community.
A few days ago we were still celebrating the Paschal Vigil. An integral part of it was the Baptism celebration, which is the Passover, a step from death to life. The solemn benediction of water and the renewal of baptismal promises were key points of that holy night.
In the baptism ritual there is an immersion in water (death symbol) and an emergence from water (a new life image). We are submerged in sin and we come out of it renewed. This is what Jesus calls «to be born from above» or «to be born again» (cf. Jn 3:3). This is “to be born of water”, “to be born of the Spirit” or “of the blowing wind...”.
Water and Spirit are the two symbols used by Jesus. Both express the action of the Holy Spirit that purifies and grants life, cleans and encourages, calms the thirst and breathes, smoothes and speaks. Water and Spirit make a single thing.
But Jesus also says the flesh is in opposition to the Spirit: «What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit» (Jn 3:6). Carnal man is humanly born when he appears down here. But the carnal man is defeated by the spiritual man, who is spiritually born in the Baptism. Which means to be born anew and of above. A beautiful formula by Saint Paul could be our reflection and action motto, mostly in this Paschal time: «Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life» (Rm 6:3-4).