November 3, 2019: Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
Hide & Seek. Recently, I was cajoled into this playing this perennially popular pastime with my young nieces and nephew. As I jumped into the frenetic frenzy of youthful energy, I was given a glimpse into the character of human nature that the game of Hide & Seek offers. Like many games that children play, Hide & Seek reveals our latent desires for both creative hiding and thrilling discovery. In the aftermath of this recreation, three aspects of the game jumped out as having subtle, but significant parallels in our spiritual life.
First. There is a tendency for children to overestimate their talent for hiding. A leg peeking out from being the couch, a shoe protruding from the crack in the closet, a shadow cast from behind the backyard bin: often children think that they are stealthier than they actual are. As I was feigning ignorance of their hiding places, it occurred to me that this same dynamic exists with God. In fact, one of the very first stories in the Bible reveals this. After Adam and Eve sin, they hide away in the Garden of Eden. Filled with shame and embarrassment and seek to be hidden from God and from each other. God calls out “Where are you?” not because he is ignorant of their location, but rather, he wants them to face the reality of what they have done. So it is for us. There are aspects of our lives which we try to hide away from sight. Our bad habits and addictions, the anger and resentment we keep buried in unforgiveness, the grasping and selfish motivations which limit our ability to be generous: each of us engage in a game of Hide & Seek with God in which we delude ourselves into thinking that God doesn’t know or see our hearts. We can be more concerned about what others can see than what kind of person we really are.
Second. In the game of Hide & Seek, children really want to be discovered. After a few minutes of pretending that my nephew’s hiding place was so obscure that he couldn’t be found, he voluntarily leapt out from concealment with shriek of delight. Moreover, I realized that during the process of seeking, it was important for those hiding that they be able to see the seeker. We see this dynamic at play in the story of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel. Zacchaeus was Jericho’s chief tax collector, a man who had grown rich presumably from the pernicious pecuniary practices of his profession. Yet, he desires to see Jesus. Short of stature, he climbs a sycamore tree, which provides both a hidden place of concealment within its impressive foliage and a superior vantage point to see Jesus. When Jesus finds him and calls to him, he does not shrink back. Rather, he quickly comes down from the tree and prepares a great feast for Jesus. His great desire to see Jesus brings Zacchaeus out from hiding and sparks the moment which leads to the conversation of his mind and heart. He vows to give half of his wealth to the poor and repay those he had cheated and extorted fourfold. Like Zacchaeus, we are challenged to go out on a limb, to risk seeing Jesus in our daily lives. When we come out of hiding, when we acknowledge our addictions, resentments and selfishness, Jesus calls us, as he did with Zacchaeus to share a meal. The desire to see Jesus leads to sharing communion with him.
Third. I was surprised to discover that when given a choice between hiding and seeking, my young relatives preferred to seek rather than hide. (In fact, we had to take turns because the seeker role was so coveted!) It made me reflect that, as much as we attempt to hide, we are made to seek. There is thrill in seeking. There is joy in discovering the hidden. What is true for children is true of God. God loves to seek. He desires nothing greater than to search for those who are hiding in order that they might confront the absurdity of concealment and come forth into the light of truth. Seldom does the Gospel give us insight into Jesus’ intentions, but Luke begins the story of Zacchaeus by revealing that Jesus came to Jericho “and intended to pass through the town.” Jesus had no intention of teaching, preaching or healing in Jericho. His goal was to keep moving toward Jerusalem and his Father’s mission. In fact even as Jesus approaches Zacchaeus’ sycamore tree, it is implied that he intends to pass on by. Yet, when Jesus catches a glance of the not so subtly hidden tax collector, Jesus cannot help himself. His heart is moved to act. With playful and passionate care, Jesus calls Zacchaeus to come down from his place of hiding. In the face of critique for this change in plans, Jesus sums up his whole mission: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus loves to seek.
Hide & Seek is not simply a children’s game. The dynamics which govern the state of play also describe our relationship with God. The instincts of our fallen nature lead us to hide from God and seek refuge in the concealment of our sins. Yet, the innate desire that we have to glimpse for God in our lives can move us to come forth from hiding. Ultimately, it is God seeking us that makes all the difference. We believe in a God who loves to seek, a God who thrills in discovery. Let us humbly let ourselves be found. Let us come forth from those places where we are hiding. Let us respond to His call to come home and feast with Him forever.
~ Fr. Michael