“The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such persons to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” These words are challenging and yet very inviting to those who have begun the discipline of Lent. The Father is seeking us! How awesome. Lent is a time of graced assistance from God for those desiring to deepen their communion with him in Spirit and truth.
The worship in Spirit and truth is contrasted in the Gospel with the physical Temple worship of the Samaritans and Jews. Former Temple worship was externally bound to a place and time and the sacrifice of animals and such. Christ’s words foretold a coming inner worship of the human heart flowing with divine love of which he himself would be the greatest model. It would manifest a love poured out for others, while they were yet sinners, without counting the cost. This new inner worship “in Spirit and truth” could be offered anywhere. We have this same capacity for authentic worship by virtue of our baptism, which joins us to Christ and gives us the Holy Spirit. Within us is the Spirit who is himself the living font of Christ’s divine love enabling us to love beyond what we think possible.
The transition to ever more authentic worship of the Father in Spirit and truth plays itself out differently for each of us according to the script of our life. It may be the purification of love from all selfishness in marriage or friendship. It might be a broadening of our outer witness to God in word and deed, beyond Sunday Mass. Perhaps it is granting forgiveness to someone who will never really understand quite how much he or she may have hurt us.
The authenticity of worshipping in Spirit and truth is always somehow tied to love. Authentic love gives even when the other does not deserve nor have the capacity to return it. Lent is a time to love like God those whom we experience as sinners in our own lives. God did not wait for us to be perfect or turn to him before he began to love us. Wives and husbands, friends and coworkers, parents and children, indeed all of us, could find plenty of material for Lent in Paul’s verse “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Applying this verse to the loving of persons in our own lives will need the assistance of God. He alone has the inner water from which we can draw a love for others that will never run out. It will not only satiate our own thirst for love and provide enough for others but will even be a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Questions for Reflection
1. Who is God asking me to love while they are still sinners?
2. How can I broaden my daily worship of God?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.