There's Another World (Eternal Life)
by: Archbishop Charles E. Smith, OSF
I want to tell you a story about a man named Paul. He lived in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. He was just a little boy when his family became the proud owners of one of the first telephones in the neighborhood. It was one of those wooden boxes attached to the wall with the shiny receiver hanging on the side of the box... and the mouthpiece attached to the front. Young Paul listened with fascination as his mom and dad used the phone... and he discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device called a telephone lived an amazing person.
Her name was "Information Please"... and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anybody's number... and the correct time! Paul's first personal experience with "Information Please" came one day when he was home alone and he whacked his finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible and he didn't know what to do... and then he thought of the telephone. Quickly, he pulled a footstool up to the phone, climbed up, unhooked the receiver, held it to his ear and said: "Information Please" into the mouthpiece. There was a click or two and then a small clear voice spoke: "Information." "I hurt my finger," Paul wailed into the phone. "Isn't your mother home?" "Nobody's home but me," Paul cried. "Are you bleeding?" "No," Paul said. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts." "Can you open your ice-box?" "Yes." "Then go get some ice and hold it to your finger." Paul did and it helped a lot.
After that Paul called "Information Please for everything. She helped him with his geography and his math. She taught him how to spell the word "fix." She told him what to feed his pet chipmunk. And then when Paul's pet canary died, she listened to his grief tenderly and then said: "Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in." Somehow that helped and Paul felt better.
When Paul was nine years old, he moved with his family to Boston... and as the years passed he missed "Information Please" very much. Some years later as Paul was on his way out west to go to college, his plane landed in Seattle. He dialed his hometown operator and said, "Information Please." Miraculously, he heard that same small clear voice that he knew so well. "Information." Paul hadn't planned this, but suddenly he blurted out: "Could you please tell me how to spell the word "fix?" There was a long pause. Then came the soft answer: "I guess your finger must be all healed by now." Paul laughed. "So it's really still you. Do you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time when I was a little boy?" "I wonder," she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me! I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls so much."
Paul told her how much he had missed her over the years and asked her if he could call her again when he was back in the area. "Please do," she said, "just ask for Sally." Three months later, Paul was back in Seattle. This time a different voice answered. He asked for Sally. "Are you a friend?" the operator asked. "Yes, a very old friend." Paul answered. "Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you this," she said. "Sally had been working part time the last few years because she was sick. She died 5 weeks ago." Before he could hang up, the operator said: "Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?" "Yes." "Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you. It says: 'When Paul calls, tell him that I still say: there are other worlds to sing in.' He will know what I mean." Paul thanked her and hung up and he did know what Sally meant.
"There are other worlds to sing in." Isn't that a beautiful and powerful thought? And that is precisely what John 3 is all about. "There are other worlds to sing in"... in this life and, yes, even beyond this life. When Jesus said to Nicodemus that night: "You must be born again." "You must be born from above." That's what he meant... you don't have to stay the way you are. You can make a new start. You can have a new life. You can become a new person. There are other worlds to sing in.
Remember the story with me...Nicodemus was a key leader among the Jews in the time of Jesus. He was probably from a wealthy, distinguished and highly respected family. He was a Pharisee... one of the brotherhood of 6,000, who had taken a pledge in front of three witnesses that they would dedicate their lives to observing every detail of the scribal law. The Scribes worked out the regulations. The Pharisees consecrated their lives to keeping them to the nth degree. In addition, Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the Jews. The Sanhedrin had only 70 members out of the 6,000 Pharisees, the top 70 made up the Sanhedrin jury, and Nicodemus was one of them... The Sanhedrin had religious authority over every Jew in the world; and one of its primary duties was to examine and deal with anyone suspected of being a false prophet.
Nicodemus came to visit Jesus by night... and much ink has been spilled over that. Why did he come by night? Was he afraid of "guilt by association"? Was he fearful of what his Pharisee colleagues might think? Or did he want a private audience with Jesus undisturbed? Was he coming as a "watchdog" of the Sanhedrin? Or was he genuinely interested in getting to know Jesus better? All of these are fascinating questions, but what is amazing here is that he came to Jesus at all. His Pharisee friends would have scoffed at this thought. After all, Jesus was not one of them... and besides that they were supremely suspicious of him. They had labeled him a trouble-maker who was upsetting the people... and they were looking for an opportunity to silence him. They saw Jesus as a threat.
But Nicodemus came to him and Nicodemus said to him: "Rabbi, you must be a teacher who has come from God because no one could do the signs and wonders you do apart from the presence of God." And Jesus responded to Nicodemus by saying to him: "You can't see the Kingdom of God without being born again. You must be born from above." This means that you can't become a Christian by making a few minor adjustments to your life. It must be a complete turn around, a radical re-birth, a re-birth from above, which, of course means a new life from God. Nicodemus didn't understand. He didn't get it. So, Jesus explained with what many would call the greatest verse in all of the Bible, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life."
The great boxer, Mohammed Ali, whom I personally met once in an airport, was asked by a ghetto youth how he could quit school and start a boxing career since he had bad grades. Ali smiled at the young man and said in his poetic fashion:
"Stay in college and get the knowledge,
-And stay there! Til you're through
-Cause if God can make penicillin out of moldy bread,
-He can make something out of you."