Jeremiah 38, 4-6, 8-10 + Psalm 40 + Hebrews 12, 1-4 + Luke 12, 49-53
The other day I was in the car with my sister and her two grandchildren who are 7 and 5 years of age. They had been arguing, and the noise of their conflict was beginning to get on the nerves of those of us in the front seat. My sister declared a time of silence that was to last until we reached their home. We had to stop for her to pick up something along the way. I remained in the car with the boys, and as soon as she was in the store, the silence was broken. We laughed and talked, teased, and giggled until she reappeared at the car door, and silence resumed. As she buckled the seat belt, she said: “It’s a good thing you kept quiet.” A little voice from the back seat said: “We talked.” and I was in trouble. But “enforcer” has never been my strong suit no matter what anyone may choose to say. The little guy spoke the truth with a kind of innocence that betrayed two things: he was not really afraid, and telling the truth set him free from suspicion.
For more than forty-five years I’ve been praying with people in the Sacrament of Confession, and it has led me to conclude that there is not a person alive who doesn’t have a big problem with the Truth! We lie. We hide the truth, and we hide from the truth. We don’t like to hear it spoken. This denial of the truth is contributing in a very powerful way the polarization of this world and this nation. We prefer silence to the truth, and most of us live in a constant state of denial: denial of the truth. The trouble with this sort of thing is that it puts us at great distance from the One who is the Truth.
When poor old Pilate stood in front of Jesus and said: “What is Truth?” He could not face the fact that he was standing in front of the truth: the truth about himself, the truth about his life, his version of Justice, and the very truth of Jesus Christ. Because of the fact that we live in denial of the truth about who we are and for that matter about who God is, we live a little bit like Pilate who would not see the truth, feared it, and would rather wash his hands and blaim someone else than admit, accept, and embrace the truth.
The fire that Jesus came to ignite is the fire of truth, and the revelation of that Truth will cause divisions and strife. It always has, but it’s not because of Jesus. The goal of Jesus was not to create division, but to bring about acceptance of the truth. Those who tell the truth usually pay a great price. The prophets in the Old Testament were truth-tellers, and they all had trouble for it. Some paid with their lives. The truth tellers among us still are often outcasts avoided by those who would prefer to live a lie. Those who tell the truth are often embarrassed, frustrated, and angered by the challenges they face with the truth. Ask anyone who has been a “whistle-blower” at the work place, and you’ll get the picture. This age in which we live likes the lie, and when truth begins to be discovered, there is trouble.
The paradox of all this is that we are drawn to the truth. I think it’s why at our lowest level we are often suspicious and doubtful of things we hear and are told. We always want to know the truth. We are restless and something in us seeks the truth even though we often don’t want to hear it.
The truth always reveals what we most want to hide from ourselves and from others. We are sinners. The moment we start to hide, to run, to deny, to lie to ourselves about this, the further we will find ourselves from Jesus Christ. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of the Truth that breaks into this living lie which continues to suggest to us that there is really no such thing as sin, and if there is, we’re not involved to any great extent. Which of course, is the greatest of all lies. As I said once before, in this day and age, no one anymore has “sin”, we just have “issues”. When you smile at that thought, you are beginning to acknowledge the truth.
With the coming of Jesus Christ, the dividing line is revealed, not so much between the good and the bad, but rather between those who live in the truth and those who hide from the truth, deny the truth, and who might even insist that there is no truth. The remedy that leads to truth is proposed in the second reading today, that Letter to the Hebrews. It is worth reading again throughout this coming week.
When we stand before and within the truth, we shall discover that God’s love is in proportion to the forgiveness he gives. The greatest sinners who confess their sin and embrace the truth are the ones who always seem to know, really know, the love of God. They are like the little guy in the back seat who knows that if he tells the truth with someone who loves him, he will enjoy even more of that love, and live a very joyful life free of fear, free of doubt, and free from the darkness of sin, deceit, and lies. It is still and always will be so: The Truth shall set you free.