The Ugly Truth

(Homily for Twelfth Ordinary Sunday, Year A)

Bottom line: Jesus shows us the Ugly Truth - and the Beautiful Truth - about others and our own selves.

You might remember that a few years ago, the police stopped Mel Gibson for driving while intoxicated. The famous actor/director launched into a rant, laced with anti-Semitic slurs. When the police report found its way into the world's media, many people nodded their head and said that Mel Gibson has shown his true colors. Commenting on the Mel Gibson case, Mark Shea made this observation:

"As a good child of a post-Freudian culture, I was raised to believe that what people say when they are plastered, or insanely angry, or deeply afraid, or otherwise stripped of their normal rational faculties is Who They Really Are. We talk that way all the time. 'I thought he was a good man until the mask came off and I saw the ugly Truth.' That sort of talk is natural as breathing for us. That's because, in America, everybody is a Calvinist, including the Catholics. We believe that the fall is identical with nature, and therefore believe that when you see a man in sin, you see him as he 'really' is. Goodness is the mask, corruption is his nature."

Mark Shea is on to something. John Calvin taught a doctrine of "total depravity." He said, "our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle."* My point in this homily is not to debate Calvin, but point out that (perhaps unconsciously) we use his doctrine as a lens to understand today's Gospel.** When Jesus says, "Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be know," we assume that he is referring to dark secrets - hateful things that people have done and gotten away with. That is part of it, but it cannot be the whole story. Jesus goes on to say that we ourselves will have a role in revealing secrets. Does Jesus want us to become gossips? Does he want us to become people who root out the misdeeds of others?

I don't think so. The secret that Jesus wants us to proclaim from the rooftop is this: Yes, we have gone astray, we have fallen into destructive behaviors. But God still loves us. Think about how he delights in tiny creatures such as sparrows. You and I are worth more than many sparrows. What God wants us to do is acknowledge him before others.

There is an Ugly Truth in all of this. Jesus says, "Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father." The Ugly Truth is not that we have done misdeeds. We can submit those sins to Jesus for pardon and healing. He can even bring good out of the wrong we have done. The great tragedy is not sin in itself, but the failure to ask forgiveness, to turn from God, to deny that one needs Jesus.

The Ugly Truth is the possibility that you and I can deny Jesus, turn away from him forever. But there is also a Beautiful Truth - we can at any moment come to him. Right now we are at the beginning of summer. For many people this is a time to relax a little bit, enjoy some good weather and maybe even take a little vacation. But it is also a good time to turn to Jesus.

And it is a good time to proclaim secrets from the housetops. I am not talking about evil things that others have done, but the good things. Good deeds often remain hidden. Shakespeare said, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Perhaps you and I could do something to remedy that imbalance. And we should never forget the one great and lasting good - to turn one's heart to Jesus.

When I hear about the sudden death of someone close to my age - like Tim Russert - I have to admit that it makes me think. Is there some part of my life that I am foolishly trying to hide from the Lord? I cannot judge Tim Russert. He seemed like a good man and a good Catholic, but I know almost nothing about him. I do, however, know a lot about someone else. On the day of the Final Judgment, my life will be an open book - as will yours. St. Paul describes how sin has reigned in our world. At the Last Judgment we will see human history from beginning to end. It will not be a pretty sight. Our own hidden role in that history will become evident. But that is not the whole story. St. Paul says that the grace of God is more powerful than sin. Now is the time to open our hearts completely to the mercy of Christ.

**********

*"For our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle. Those who term it concupiscence use a word not very inappropriate, provided it were added, (this, however, many will by no means concede,) that everything which is in man, from the intellect to the will, from the soul even to the flesh, is defiled and pervaded with this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that the whole man is in himself nothing else than concupiscence. Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 8)

C.S. Lewis gave such a penetrating exposition of the power of evil at work in ordinary people that he was accused of resurrecting Calvin's doctrine of total depravity. Lewis replied that the recognition of depravity implies some goodness. "I disbelieve that doctrine (total depravity) partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved, and partly because experience shows us much goodness in human nature." I should mention that, for their part, disciples of Calvin do have a response to Lewis' objection.

General Intercessions for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives:

Twelfth Sunday, Year A, 2005: A Bishop's Hidden Life
2002: Secret Acts Made Public

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Father's Day Thank-You, Farewell to Glen, Novena Intentions, )

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Novena in Honor of St. Paul (for Year of St. Paul: June 28, 2008 - July 29, 2009)

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Homily for Year of St. Paul

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