What is Truth?

(March 30, 2018)

Bottom line: Whatever burden you are carrying take it to the cross. Jesus will transform it. Listen to his voice and and tell him you want to belong to the truth.

For Good Friday this year I focus on Pilate's question: What is truth? The word truth appears 235 times in the Bible, 22 of them in St. John's Gospel. Truth is at the heart of the Bible.

Unfortunately many people today have stopped seeking the truth. They brush aside the big questions: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Does God exist? Who is Jesus?

When people talk about truth they look at it not as end in itself but as an instrument - a way to gain power or even a weapon.

Bishop Robert Barron points out that people today don't know how to have a good argument. They know how to shout, bully and call names. On how to have a good argument Bishop Barron gives the example of St. Thomas Aquinas. He begins by asking a question. Before stating his own position he gives the opposing arguments. Then he lays out the evidence and finally responds to his opponents' objections.

For example, he asks the most basic question: Doe God exist? He first gives the arguments against God's existence and makes sure he has correctly understood his opponents. Only then does state his own position and give the evidence for God's existence and he answers his opponents' objections. That's a good way of arguing, of seeking the truth.

Things are different today. The "new atheists" don't so much have new arguments but a particular method of arguing. They use shame - look at all the terrible things Christians have done! Instead of seeking truth they use a version of "truth" as a weapon.

This atmosphere causes many people to brush aside the question of truth. That's what Pilate does. After hearing Jesus say that he comes to testify to the truth, Pilate shows little curiosity. Instead he turns away. Is he afraid of the answer? Is he simply bored? Is he trying to avoid something that might upset his lifestyle?

Whatever his motive, when he brushes aside the issue of truth, he immediately falls into depravity. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent. He has committed no crime against Roman law. But the crowd shouts and Pilate gives in. He has Jesus whipped: a horrific punishment, a terrible injustice against an innocent man. Eventually he has Jesus killed in a vicious way. When a person treats truth lightly he becomes capable of gross injustice.

Pope Benedict points out that the dominant philosophy of Western society is relativism: the belief that there is no good or bad, no right or wrong, no true of false. It's just "my truth" and "your truth." This sounds tolerant but then the only way of deciding an issue is by who has the power, who can shout the loudest. The end result, says Pope Benedict, is the "dictatorship of relativism."

The question of truth is not simply intellectual. It's a spiritual problem. Jesus tells Pilate, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." I don't know about you but I want to belong to the truth. It doesn't mean I know everything or am always right. Far from it. As Pope Benedict points out, it's not that we possess the truth but that the truth possesses us.

Jesus says you will know the truth and the truth will make you free. People quote that line but forget the first part: You will become my disciples and you will know the truth - and the truth will make you free. Know Jesus who says, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

Jesus wants us to speak the truth gently and with love. Our culture wants us to keep quiet. As Pastor Rick Warren notes: "Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someoneís lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You donít have to compromise convictions to be compassionate."

To hold onto our convictions and to warn those falling into danger should not involve becoming harsh and judgmental. In his CD Who Am I to Judge? Dr. Edward Sri helps navigate between being judgmental and abdicating responsibility (like Pilate washing his hands). After praying and examining one's own conscience a person may say something gently and confidentially. And often it means to keep silent - as Jesus does when people judge him. I don't know about you, but I have enough to do dealing with my own mess-ups: Like we say in the penitential rite, what I have done and what I have failed to do.

In the new movie about St. Paul, the great apostle carries the burden of his past: his role in hunting down and killing innocent Christians. The film has a surprising resolution. I admit I was glad the theater stayed dark because I was bawling my eyes out. When the lights came on I saw others were worse off than me. As I went out I gave them a thumbs-up.

Taking our past to Jesus may hurt but ultimately brings joy. In a few minutes we will have the opportunity to venerate the cross. Whatever burden you are carrying take it to the cross. Jesus will transform it. Listen to his voice and and tell him you want to belong to the truth: to become his disciple, to know the truth - and the truth will make you free. Amen.

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Spanish Version

Homilies for Triduum 2018:

Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Easter Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday homily: MeToo & Need for Mercy

From Archives (Good Friday Homilies):

2017: Three Responses to Innocent Suffering
2016: Source of Mercy
2015: The Truth About Everything
2014 : Conformed to the Cross
2013 : The Contrast of Judas and Peter
2012: The Newness of Jesus' Death
2011: Suffering Is Everything
2010: Do Not Waste Your Suffering
2009: He Learned Obedience
2008: According to Your Word
2007: He Took Our Suffering to Himself
2006: The Hour of Divine Mercy
2005: The Conversion of Barabbas
2004: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
2003: The Host
2002: Testimony of Bishop Dolli
2001: Blood From His Side
2000: Vicarious Suffering
1999: Old Testament Fulfilled
1998: He took our place

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

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This is hard for us today. Instead of seeking truth many people use "truth" as a weapon. They don't really care about the truth. They want a club to beat other people. Bishop Robert Barron proposes a different way. He uses St. Thomas Aquinas as model for how to seek truth. Thomas asks a question, for example, does God exist? Then he states the best arguments against God's existence. After making sure he understands his opponents, he responds respectfully laying out the evidence for God's existence. Many people don't like that approach. Rather than arguing as St. Thomas does, they prefer to bully, shout and call names.

You and I want something different. This evening as we celebrate the central event of history we do well to address Pilate's question: What is truth?