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July 2005 

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Worship in Spirit and in Truth



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Worship in Spirit and in Truth

A woman (a Samaritan) said to Jesus: "Master, I see that you are a prophet…our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you, the Jews, you say: it is in Jerusalem that we should worship". Jesus said to her:" Believe me, woman, the time has come when it is not any more in this mountain neither in Jerusalem that we should worship the Father […] but the time comes, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, because they are those worshipers that the Father seeks. God is a Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4, 19-25)
puits de Jacob The dialogue of Jesus with this Samaritan near the Jacob's well has a far-reaching theological meaning. It is worth to think about this above reported dialogue. 
This woman discerned in Jesus an exceptional person and she took advantage by asking some of her own unanswered questions: "Where should we worship God?" Like us she is looking for reference marks and did not want to make a mistake. Where is God? Where can we find him for worship? In Jerusalem or in the Mount Garizim? Jesus completely changed the question. He put back to back the Jewish and the Samaritan reference marks. One cannot assign a territory to God; he is of another nature, a spiritual nature.
sur le visage du prochain All along his teaching, Jesus told us where to find God. He can be found in our neighbour. 
It is the way to worship God, in a genuine way. God is not only in one place but he is with those who are in need and hope for help. God is there, in spirit and in truth, where he can be worshiped. These new reference marks give us freedom from a too close link with God in a specific location. They avoid the risk to freeze our image of God into an abstract, out of time and unchanging image. This does not mean that it is easy to define these new reference marks.

We attribute today to our society and to our youth a lack of reference marks that are at the root of all problems: violence, drugs, suicide… But what reference marks are missing? Commands from somewhere else, accompanied by sanctions are no longer followed. Fear or making us feel guilty cannot last.
Codes of ethic considered as evident, as natural are now questioned: they don't follow enough the cultural evolution of the societies and the individuals, and they are not adapted to multiple behaviours. How to operate a fair choice? 


There is the temptation to look in the past for reference marks when God's image and authority were better established. But we cannot apply today some thing that was working yesterday. From a stable and less complex society we have moved into a mobile and complicated world. It is destabilizing but also what a range of new possibilities! There are no more roads to follow but new choices have become possible with more freedom, in an authentic way. The supreme reference mark is still there: " Love each other as I loved you",. It is the evangelical transcription of the taboo of homicide at the basis of all societies: " You shall not kill".

Is it clear enough? The good for the other is not always easy to discern. Ethical discussions such as euthanasia, abortion, cloning, immigration, economy, and environment show how it is difficult to make a decision. Good and bad, human and inhuman, cannot so simply be distinguished. They are intermixed some time so much they are impossible to clarify. The reference marks for making a choice on complex situations are not given for once and are not coming from a superior authority: they have to be temporarily set up, case by case. Their validity relies on their relevance to a specific field, for a given time and culture. Do the reference marks allow to progress? Do they open the future? Do they give happyness?

monde postmoderne Instability, precariousness, flexibility and permanent questioning characterize our post-modern world. We have to surf on this moving ocean, eventually to dive into it without being engulfed. 
Faith is really a way to go without being secure, "in spirit and in truth". Faith starts when there is no more reference marks, no more roads to follow, faith pushes you to still go on without firm ground, ready to jump without knowing where we are going to land, possibly nowhere. Sometimes, in a subtle way, we experience no solid ground but we don't fall. It is the expression in some one's eyes, reflecting the light of God, that makes us feel more surely guided.