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Sunday, March 18, 2012

From the Shadows

"Nicodemus said to him, 'How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?'” Jn 3:4

Nicodemus is one those shadowy figures who slips into Jesus' life at night to ask a few questions and then disappear, only to return again twice more, once to plead for Jesus' life before the ruling council of the Jews, and then to help bury him. Though he was touched deeply by Jesus' challenge to him to be born again, he remained a member of the ruling council and a voice for sanity and hope.

It can be very difficult and dangerous to stand in the margins. Sometimes we do this out of fear. Knowing our lives must change if we give ourselves over completely to God, we hesitate, not ready for the transformation to which the gospel calls us. At other times, we stand in the margins to act as prophets and mediators for others. Knowing that our relationships with important and powerful  people can benefit the entire community as long as we maintain our integrity, we are in a position to voice our concerns and objections to injustice.

This second position takes deep faith and a vibrant prayer life. Being willing to give voice to the heartache of everyday people can be agitational and upsetting to those who wield power, but it is vital to the hopes of those who are voiceless. In recent history, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Martin Luther King, Jr, lived this role. Though each of these key historical figures was personally flawed, they knew God wanted them to be prophets, and, at great personal cost, stood on the margins demanding justice for all.

Today, come out of the shadows and live a public life of faith.

Are there people in your life who were like Nicodemus? How did they affect your life?

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