March 8, 2023, 6:00 AM

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and Truth. John 4:24

True worshipers worship God in Spirit and Truth. This is the message that Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman at the well who was questioning where to worship God – in a temple or on a mountain top. Jesus said that real worshipers experience God in Spirit and Truth.

St. Francis inherently understood this message through creation. Self-aggrandizement, looking good to impress others, and living without daily prayer were ways to avoid worshiping God in Spirit and Truth. However, how are Christians today not worshiping God in Spirit and Truth?

It is interesting that this passage from the Gospel of John falls on the Sunday prior to St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick was a British citizen in the late 4th century. He was kidnapped as a teenager and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped and returned to Ireland later in life, and began converting the Irish to Christianity.

One of the most famous quotes attributed to him was: “Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” As a witness to that profession of faith, you and I might say that St. Patrick lived an example of worshiping God in Spirit and Truth – his actions attested to this. End of story.

Enter the Leprechauns.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated not only for the patron saint of Ireland, but also for leprechauns. According to folklore, leprechauns were shoemakers by trade and stored their earnings in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A person needed to catch a leprechaun in order to find the end of the rainbow, albeit often with dire consequences.

The legend of leprechauns has haunted the honorable day of celebration of St. Patrick for centuries. One could say that both St. Patrick and the leprechauns were both spirit-driven. Yet, there is a vast difference between the two characters. St. Patrick worshiped in Spirit and in Truth while spirit and deception were attributed to leprechauns. Leprechauns were tricksters who could turn something good into something evil.

In our fast-paced world that creates little time for contemplation and reflection, truth and deception easily become intertwined. We do not make accurate distinctions. That is one of the secular world’s greatest tricks – making good look like evil, and evil look like good. The ongoing work of the Christian is to proclaim the truth by calling that which is evil, “evil” and that which is good, “good.”

The trickster messes with a person’s mind. Identifying political entities with Christianity is one such example. The so-called rise in “Christian Nationalism” falls in this category of spirit and deception. Christians are commanded to draw their identity from Christ alone, and never from a political entity. (Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Mark 12:17.) There is no political party that embraces the spirit of truthfulness in Christ. By saying “I am a Christian Democrat” or “I am a Christian Republican” (or some other political term), a person destroys the fullness of God who comes only in Spirit and Truth as evidenced by the life of Christ.

As the Samaritan woman could not find God in the temple or on the mountain top, so too, we will not find God outside of Spirit and Truth. When experiences are attributed to a God who sits above and outside of the worshiper alone, truth is replaced by the trickster’s deception.

In this season of Lent, is there a "trickster's deception" in your life that needs to be exposed?  

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John