February 23, 2008

Hide and Seek

3rd Sunday of Lent (A)
John 4: 24: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and

When I was young, I used to play the game “hide and seek” with my friends. It was a game of running and hiding. The rule of the game: Not to be found or seen! It was a simple but exciting street game. Now I don’t see children playing hide and seek. But the grown-ups are still playing this game. It is God who seeks and we are the ones hiding.

Our gospel for today is another “hide and seek” game. The seeker was Jesus and the Samaritan woman was the one hiding. She did not want to be seen. She was hiding from everybody because of her immoral life, having five husbands! Going to the well at noon (John 4:6) was the best time to avoid the crowd because people seldom go to the well at noon. But Jesus was a smart seeker. He knew how to find the sinners. He went to the well at noon.

But to catch the woman near the well was just the beginning of the game. He needed to catch the woman “within.” And so after having a lengthy conversation with her, Jesus offered the water of life and said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16). The woman realized that Jesus knew him well. She was found! Without any desire to hide her sins anymore to somebody who knew everything, she decided to come out openly and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus without any judgment said in reply, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” (John 4:18). Jesus saw her sincerity to repent for she did not give any alibi or blame somebody but herself. She admitted her fault in full humility and took the responsibility.

Jesus must have admired the woman’s sincerity. The humility to accept one’s sins is the beginning of conversion and real worship. “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

Anyone who finds Jesus (or shall I say, when we allow Jesus to find us), everything in this world becomes secondary. The woman found Jesus. She left her water-jar and went back to the city to tell the good news. (John 4:29).

Like the Samaritan woman, we are also playing hide and seek with God. First, we tried getting satisfaction in the different “earthly wells” – power, fame, and wealth! We feel the “thirst to grab material things” but we always end up unsatisfied and unquenched. Second, we easily see the faults of others but not ours. We hide in our “self-righteousness.”

Like what he did to the Samaritan woman, Jesus is lovingly seeking us by calling our names. Have you ever felt “emptiness” in the midst of your own security? Or a more meaningful life? Or when friends, high paying job, trip abroad and successes can no longer make you happy? Sometimes, in our desire to fill this “emptiness” within, we are tempted to seek more of these worldly desires. Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” (John 4:14). The choice is ours now. Follow the footstep of the Samaritan woman: Stop hiding. Accept our sins and leave our jars!

The call of CBCP for a “communal action” and the increasing call from different concerned groups for truth and accountability should be taken seriously by the Arroyo Government. All Filipinos are called again to be socially engaged – to pray and discern together, to demand truth and accountability on the ZTE scandal from the Arroyo Government and vigilance against any individuals, political parties and groups who are taking advantage of our present political situation for their own political dreams and interests.

My eyebrows rise every time I hear members of the opposition, some disgruntled congressmen and a former president shouting for moral revolution but are perceived to be corrupt themselves. Moral revolution will never come until all of us change – First, by humbly accepting that all of us have contributed something to this graft and corruption we failed to exorcise since EDSA I. Second, accept that the graft and corruptions in our government are also present in our midst. They have already metastasized in our schools, churches, offices, and even in our families in different forms.

Our gospel today is offering us a handy advice. Be like the Samaritan woman. Accept that we have our own shortcomings and misgivings to our country. I am also guilty. When we won in EDSA I and II, we promised to be more vigilant and watch our present government. But when all the euphoria died down and GMA was proclaimed President of the Philippines, I simply returned to my “non-involvement and observer” mode. For this…I ask for forgiveness. Mea Culpa!

In March 2000, Pope John Paul sought forgiveness for the many past sins of his Church, including its treatment of people of other religions during the Inquisition, the Crusades, and forced conversions of natives. John Paul knew that a genuine inter-religious dialogue with other faith was impossible without forgiveness.

Last January, President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea apologized for the killings by police officers and troops of more than 800 citizens in the early months of the 1950-53 Korean War for their past involvement in leftist activity.

Last week, led by PM Kevin Rudd, the Australia Federal Government made an apology to the aborigines for the “stolen generations” (aboriginal children who were taken away from their families by the government and church mission from 1869 to 1969). The apology was the government’s attempt to reconcile with Australia's Indigenous people and become one people.

In this Lenten season, let’s stop hiding from our own self-righteousness. Humbly accept our faults and apologize to people we have hurt and offended.

There is a profound and liberating experience in accepting that we are all sinners … yet loved and sought by God.

- Fr. Wilfredo M. Samson,SJ
Ateneo de Zamboanga

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