As a child, I loved playing hide and seek. I remember the excitement of finding the perfect hiding spot, one in which I was convinced no one could ever find me. I remember the delight of quietly waiting in that spot until just the right moment to make a dash to the base. In this context, hiding is wonderful, joyful and freeing. Many times in the Gospel, we see Jesus go off early in the morning by himself to seek out this solitude, this special time of delight with his Heavenly Father (see Mk 1:35 & Lk 4:42).
I also remember hiding when I was afraid, afraid that I would get in trouble and hoping no one would discover what I had done. I can think of times even now when I hide from my own true feelings or painful memories, from a conflict, or even from God. In these times, hiding is a kind of captivity, filled with shame and fear. This is a different kind of hiding, this one seeks solitude away from God, such as when Adam and Eve hid from Him (see Gn 3:8). It is fear-based.
Hiding in Prayer
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples about prayer, exhorting them to be secretive, to enter the inner room to pray, fast, and give alms, letting only God see what is hidden. Which kind of hiding might this be? Why is this hiddenness so desirable to God?
Perhaps it is desirable because this hiddenness is actually quite revealing. It reveals the true state of one’s heart. The sole motivation of the hidden one’s concealment is to be with the beloved. Nothing else matters. It is like two lovers who steal away to be just with each other, no distractions, no outside attention – just this beautiful intimacy. It sets aside this sacred space for the other.
This is a beautiful definition of prayer – sacred space set aside to spend with God. Sometimes words flow from the heart, sometimes words flood the heart, and other times a sweet sacred silence settles upon the soul, covering it with peace. Even when prayer is characterized by wrestling with difficulties or distractions, STILL it is sacred. A couple that has been married for decades, find sweet peace, just sitting in each other’s company. No words must be exchanged.
Hide and Seek
This Gospel passage brought back memories of playing hide and seek outside for hours with friends or siblings. In the game, many hide while another seeks. In prayer, however, we kind of do BOTH. We hideaway in order to seek our Beloved Savior. To soak into His Presence, to listen, to speak, and to simply be with him. We must guard this time and when we find other circumstances have threatened to lessen or delay it, and we must then seek it out in any way we can – stolen moments in a car ride or commute, a gentle awakening to His presence as we walk from one location to another. Soon enough, we will have to dash out to complete our responsibilities, but let us remember that this hiding place with Christ will always be our true home base.