What Does It Mean to Be Born from Above?

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him."

Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."

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?"

Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, '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."

Nicodemus answered and said to him, "How can this happen?" (John 3:1-9)

Have you ever had an Evangelical Protestant ask you the question, "Are you born again?" Of course, if we, like Nicodemus, are thinking of being physically "born again" or are unfamiliar with this term, then we may answer this question as Nicodemus did, "How can this happen?" 

Let's first look at our physical birth. How did most of us come into this world? By passing through our mother's birth canal and being guided by the hand of a doctor. And how do most of us come into the kingdom of God? By being born from above by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the guidance of our heavenly Father.

How and when this rebirth occurs is something that various Christian traditions understand differently. For instance, an Evangelical Christian might say he is born again when he "accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior." A member of a Pentecostal or Charismatic church might say she is born again when she is "baptized in the Spirit" and receives the gift of tongues as a confirmation. The words may be different, and the expectations may vary, but each person is reflecting on his or her own experience of God bringing someone from darkness to light.

As Catholics, we understand that sacramental baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the means by which we are born from above (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1262-1270). Every Easter, in fact, the church asks believers to renew their baptismal promises as a way of reminding ourselves of what it is that we have received and how we have received it. By renewing these promises, too, we have a regular opportunity to embrace and deepen the grace that we received when we were baptized. It is our opportunity to confess that baptism is not the end but the beginning of our faith journey. Just as our birth is the beginning of our earthly life, so too is our baptism the beginning of our spiritual life. And just as a baby needs physical nourishment, so do we need spiritual nourishment if we want to grow up and become mature believers.

If you have been baptized but don't feel "born again," you may want to check for obstacles that may be impeding the flow of the Spirit in your life. Ask yourself, "Have I ever committed my life to Jesus Christ, and asked him to be the center of my life?" Examine your life and ask the Spirit to uncover whatever sin, hurts, or other traumas that may be holding you back from a deep faith commitment to Christ or a whole-hearted trust in his love and mercy. Through Confession, let God sweep away anything that hinders your full participation in — and enjoyment of — the kingdom of God! Let that seed of faith that was planted in your heart at Baptism blossom to full maturity. Then you will be able to declare with St. Paul,

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth."

Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men 

1. If you have ever had someone ask you if you are "born again," what was your response? After reading this article, how would you answer that question now?

2. In the article, we read these words, "Just as our birth is the beginning of our earthly life, so too is our baptism the beginning of our spiritual life. And just as a baby needs physical nourishment, so do we need spiritual nourishment if we want to grow up and become mature believers." What are some ways you receive "spiritual nourishment"? What steps can you take to increase your spiritual nourishment?

3. What are some obstacles in your life that "may be holding you back from a deep faith commitment to Christ or a whole-hearted trust in his love and mercy"? What steps can you take to deal with them, beginning with prayer?

4. If you are in a men's group, end your meeting by praying to the Lord for one another that he would heal you and remove any obstacles to deepening your faith in Christ.


Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at mblumberg@wau.org or mblumberg@aol.com.

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  • Guest

    I'm not a man, but please allow a comment from the distaff side.  I wish with all my heart my husband had done what you suggest in asking Jesus to be the center of your life as a conscious act.  He used to group as a result of our involvement in Cursillo, but he has not grouped in several years.

    You see, about 4 months ago, he left me after 32 years of marriage.  I have a chronic illness called fibromyalgia which admittedly has been hard to deal with at times.  I didn't ask for this illness!  He said he couldn't deal with it, or me, any longer because he wanted to enjoy his life and didn't want to spend another 10 yrs. like the last 10 yrs.  He claims he has a "right" to enjoy his life and be as happy as he can.

     Even our sons are upset with him, and they have always adored their dad.  Our oldest, who is himself married, told his father that the marriage vows are until death do you part, and to take the sickness with the health as you have promised to be there even as you promised to be there for better or worse.  Naturally, my husband said our son didn't understand, that this situation was different.  Right…it is always "different" when the rough thing is happening to you and not to someone else.

     My heart is broken.  If there are any wise men out there with advice to help me live with this or if possible, change it, please let me know. I just want my family put back together.  You can reach me privately as my email address:  lmaloy@unforgettable.com

    God bless all you wonderful men who truly understand marriage is a sacrament, and you can only be truly happy (happy is a big thing with him) when you live in accordance with God's plan for us through the guidance of our Holy Catholic Church.  Thank  you so much.

  • Guest

    Anna Marie,

        I'm very sorry that your husband has selfishly abandoned you this way.  I will keep you in prayer. 

  • Guest


    I too am sorry to hear that your husband has abandoned you, and I too will pray for you.  I will offer what wisdom I have, but I suggest you discuss it with your spiritual director before acting upon it.

    First, remember that God makes all things work together for good with those who love him.  Do not despair of God's mercy and love.  They are as infinite as His power, which is enough to make an entire universe such as we live in, for EACH of us, to allow us to come to him, without any strain on His part whatsoever. 

    Second, continue to love your husband.  Pray for grace in this.  Loving your husband is a choice you make, but it is God's grace that makes it possible for you to do so.

    Third, consider changing your tactics.  Different people are more responsive to different expressions of love.  The five most common "love languages" are words of affirmation (telling somebody every good thing about them you honestly can); acts of service (doing for another things that they will appreciate); quality time (spending time with another, doing something he enjoys); touch (any touch that shows affection); and gifts (some people need a material representation of love, but the important thing is that it be chosen with care and show love, not its price).

    I am very fortunate in that my wife responds well to the two ways I most enjoy giving love.  But it would be my duty to give her love in a way to which she would respond well, regardless of my preferences.

    Fourth, remember this:  while submitting to one another in love, Paul commands  husbands to love their wives, and wives to respect their husbands.

    Regardless, I hope and pray you find guidance that bears fruit.