The following story was told by Pope Benedict XVI in 1980 in a Christmas homily:
He told a rabbi’s story about a little boy Jehel, who came running, with big tears running down his cheeks, into the room of his grandfather, the famous Rabbi Baruch. The boy cried, “My friend has totally given up on me. He is very unfair and very mean to me.”
“Well, could you explain this a the boy’s face. He himself now has little more?” asked the Rabbi.
“Okay,” responds the little boy. “We were playing hide and seek; I was hiding so well that he could not find me. But then he simply gave up and went home. Isn’t that mean?”
The most exciting hiding place has lost its excitement because the other stops playing. The Master caresses tears in his eyes. And he says, “Yes, this is not nice. But look, it is the same way with God. He is hiding, and we do not seek Him. Just imagine! God is hiding, and we people do not even look for Him.”
The then Cardinal Ratzinger comments: “In this little story a Christian is able to find the key to the ancient mystery of Christmas. God is in hiding. He waits for his creation to set out toward him, he waits for a new and willing YES to come about, for love to arise as a new reality out of his creation. He waits for man.” That is what God is waiting for from you and from me: a return – something to rise out of his creation that is not presently there – our love, our YES, our gratitude.
“God has become a man. He has become a child. Thus, he fulfills the great and mysterious promise to be Emmanuel…God with us. Now he is no longer unreachable for anybody. God is Emmanuel. By becoming a child, he offers us the possibility of being on familiar terms with him.”
Do you know that if you are not on familiar terms with the Lord – it is your own fault? It’s not God’s and it’s not anyone else’s fault but your own, because God has made Himself available, reachable, approachable & desirable in coming to us in the humble vesture of a tiny child. He waits.
He waits. He is hiding, Cardinal Ratzinger said, but only because He wants you to show that He means enough to you – for you to seek Him.
Dear friends, do not get dismayed when you think at times that God is absent. He wants you to show that He matters enough for you to seek Him. Think of that “hide and seek” story Pope Benedict told. The little boy Jehel was upset because his friend didn’t care enough to keep seeking. Do you care enough to seek? And to keep seeking for the Lord and for His Will in your life? Now, what happens in a game of “hide and seek” when one child finds another? There is a sudden thrill, a joy, even a chase – perhaps an embrace.
Can we expect any less in our pursuit of God?
The great blessing of being a Catholic is that of finding, and with it – the thrill, the joy, and the embrace are never far off – as close as the nearest Mass and Holy Communion – where, like Bethlehem, many do not expect to find Him – so poor, so small & so humble – yet so ready to draw us close to Himself.