Several weeks ago, a flaming Christian fundamentalist arrived at the campus where my oldest daughter attends college. Before he stood on a bench to show the students the error of their ways, he erected signs all around him informing the students and faculty that they were all on their way to hell and deserved to go there. Standing up on the bench to preach, he shouted to everyone that they were going to hell. If you had a tattoo, you were going to hell. If you dressed a certain way or listened to certain types of music, you were going to hell. If you were Roman Catholic, you were going to hell. The list went on and on. As the group listened to his tirade, the unspoken message he was preaching became loud and clear: unless you belonged to his particular denomination, and worshiped God in his denomination's way, you were without Christ and without hope in the world. Simply put, you were on your way to hell. Not surprisingly, his comments inflamed and angered the crowd, especially when many of the students were Roman Catholics themselves. His tirade even made the college paper that day.
In the days when Jesus walked the earth, He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar. Tired as He was from the journey, he sat down by a well, where He entered into a dialogue with a Samaritan woman who, like the aforementioned flaming fundamentalist, wanted to make an issue out of the ‘proper place’ where one should worship God and how one should worship God. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [here in Samaria], but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem," she said to the Lord. To this woman, worship was something that one did in a certain building in a certain place. Jesus responded to her as follows: "Believe Me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain [in Samaria] nor in Jerusalem... A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and His Worshipers must worship in Spirit and in Truth." [Jn 4:21, 23-24].
Under the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law required Jews to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year in order to observe certain festivals and to present offerings to the Lord. All of this changed, however, under the New Covenant. Jesus was sent by the Father to introduce a new way of worship to the people. From now on, worship would not be something that took place at a certain building in a certain place. Instead, we would worship God in Spirit and in Truth. But what does this mean? What, exactly, does it mean to worship God in Spirit and in Truth?
To worship God in Spirit means to live lives that are not only empowered by the Spirit, but under the control of the Spirit as well. To worship God in Truth means to live out our lives according to the commands and teachings contained in the Word of God, which is the Truth. This is genuine worship in a nutshell.
Lent is a time to reflect on our lives in order to see where we need to make changes and to repent where necessary. What have we allowed ‘worship’ to become to us? Have we, like the woman at the well in Samaria, or the flaming fundamentalist who visited my daughter’s college, changed the terms of genuine worship by limiting it to something that is done once a week in a certain building under a church steeple or sign? Has Christianity become for us nothing more than a matter of belonging to the ‘right’ denomination or the ‘right’ church?
Tragically, many of our churches in the United States (both Catholic and Protestant) are filled with men, women, and young people who have been deceived by the devil into believing that as long as they attend church services once a week, they are fulfilling their obligation to ‘worship’ God. For them, ‘worship’ is a matter of kneeling, singing, listening to sermons or homilies, and putting envelopes into a plate when it passes by. When they leave the building on Sunday morning, they will return the following week in order to ‘worship’ God again.
Brothers and sisters, are we listening to what the Master has taught? Is this the type of ‘worship’ that our Father in Heaven is seeking? Church attendance and nothing more? According to the Bible, the only ones who will be considered the true children of God and true worshipers of Him are those whose lives are led by the Spirit of God and controlled by the Spirit of God as well. This is what Saint Paul meant when he wrote as follows: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." [Ro 8:14].
To be led by the Spirit of God means that I must be willing to surrender my will moment by moment in order to carry out the Spirit’s will in my life. It means forgetting what my flesh wants to do in order to do what the Spirit wants me to do instead. My flesh may want to lie, but the Spirit wants me to speak the truth. My flesh may want to think only of self, but the Spirit desires that I put others before me. My flesh may want to hold on to anger, but the Spirit demands me to let it go. My flesh may want to hoard money, but the Spirit wants me to give alms to the poor. My flesh may want to engage in something immoral, but the Spirit says, "Be holy, for I am holy!" The list goes on and on and on. Who are we yielding to during the day? Are we truly living under the control of the Holy Spirit or are we enslaved to the demands of our flesh?
To what extent are we truly living according to the commands and teachings found in the Word of God, which is the Truth? Many who profess to be Christians are not living according to the Truth because they do not know the Truth. They do not know the Truth because they do not take the time to study God’s Word on a daily basis. I am utterly convinced that if every person in America who professes to be a Christian would discipline himself or herself to study God’s Word on a daily basis, the result would be revival, transformed lives, and churches filled with men and women who truly understand what it means to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. The more we get into God’s Word, the more we discover how we are to live and what areas need to be changed. But how can we live according to the Truth if we do not even know the Truth?
Lent is a season of repentance and reflection. We all would do well to examine our lives before God in order to determine just how much we are worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth. Are we worshiping at Cain's altar, giving God what we want, or are we worshiping at Abel's altar and giving Him what He desires? Like the Samaritan woman or the flaming fundamentalist mentioned earlier, has worship for us become nothing more than a feeble matter of belonging to the ‘right’ denomination or church or praying in a certain building in a certain place?
Jesus has taught us that worship is something that we do in Spirit and in Truth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where we are. We are to worship God in Spirit and in Truth at work, in the grocery store, while cooking in the kitchen, or mowing the lawn. What matters to God is that we live lives that are under the complete control of the Holy Spirit and are lined up with the commands and teachings set forth in the Holy Bible. This is what it means to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, and these are the kind of worshipers the Father is seeking. Anything less than this has its origin in man and not the Spirit.
He who has a listening ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Join the new media evangelization. Your tax-deductible gift allows Catholic.net to build a culture of life in our nation and throughout the world. Please help us promote the Church's new evangelization by donating to Catholic.net right now. God bless you for your generosity.
|Print Article||Email Friend||Palm Download||Forums||Questions||More in this Channel||Up|
Write a comment on this article|