"Truth, which is to the human soul as water is to a desert, gives life." ~ Archbishop Charles Chaput
The walls are closing in on the prophet Jeremiah in today’s 1st Reading (Jer 18:18-20) as he finds himself on the verge of being “hoist by his own petard” to quote the words of William Shakespeare, something I don’t very often do. In this particular instance, it is ironically enough the petard of his own tongue, a tongue that speaks the truth, that stands to be the cause of his demise.
“Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.” To answer the weeping prophet’s question, yes, unfortunately good is far too often repaid by evil. Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint Paul Miki and his Companions, Joan of Arc, and Saint Charles Lwanga are but a few examples of the great men and women who have come before us proclaiming God’s word only to be met with evil. These Old Testament Passages that feature the prophets who were to come before Jesus are prominently selected during Lent so as to blaze the path for the Prophet of all prophets and King of kings. For Jesus too would face an unruly and bloodthirsty horde bent on his extinction.
What is it about the truth that can stir such rage in the hearts of those who refuse it, hate it, or simply do not know it? Perhaps because turning away from it is such an abhorrent and disordered act at its very core that there can be no other response but revulsion and rage. Think of the wayward people in your life who have abandoned their faith and all it stands for to instead live a life untethered from the teachings of Jesus. Are they really at peace? Are they truly happy? Only in the truth do we even find goodness, peace or the happiness that often seems all too elusive. In a day and age when there’s always something or someone else to blame, perhaps it’s simply the loss of truth that has left us so rudderless and wrought with despair.
In his new book Things Worth Dying For, retired Archbishop Charles Chaput, whose quote kicks off today’s reflection, had this to say about moral relativism and the slow decay of genuine truth this is always sure to follow: “For too many of us, freedom no longer means the ability to know, to choose, and to do what’s morally right; rather, it means what the scholar D.C. Schindler described as “freedom from reality” itself. It’s a freedom literally “diabolical” in the sense of the original Greek roots of the word: dia (between) and ballo(throw), meaning roughly to split apart or divide. As a result, we relentlessly try to reimagine the world to suit our desires, and then coerce others into believing our delusions.” He goes in to explain that courage and honesty arethe pillars that sustain a culture of truth; they enable a freedom grounded in reality. Their absence produces the opposite.
Since I made reference to a handful of the great martyrs of our church in the earlier stages of this essay, I’ll leave you with the thoughts of one ‘more.’ (pardon the pun). Yes it was the brilliantly intrepid Saint Thomas More, the 16th Century Lord Chancellor of England, who staked his life on his belief in the existence of truth. Not his truth or your truth, but the truth, God’s universal and enduring truth. For More, that truth resided with unique beauty and authority in the Catholic Church, and we owe her teachings our loyalty, without reservations, if we claim to be Catholic. When asked of the difficulties ine might encounter in their pursuit of a life rooted in the truth, the ever-quotable More simply said “We cannot go to heaven in featherbeds.”
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” ~ Psalm 25:5