15 May 2013

Your word is Truth

7th Week of Easter (W) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

If Truth were a commodity—like cotton or oil—its stock value would be very low these days. With the exception of the Church, no one seems to care much about what's true or false, what's fact and fiction. We are far more likely to hear that truth is a tool in the oppressor's arsenal; or that truth is a traditional fiction dreamed up by neurotics; or that truth, at best, depends on one's perspective. You have your truth. I have my truth. Who's to say what's true or false? It just depends. Rather than ask if a bit of information is true or false, we're told to ask, “Who does this information benefit? Who does it harm?” Rather than seek the truth, we are urged to “create a narrative,” or “construct a perception.” When did this sort of deception creep into our world? Sometime right after God told Adam and Eve to avoid eating the fruit of one particular tree, the world's first salesman convinced them that God was lying to them. Several centuries later, that salesman's political partner asks Jesus, “What is Truth?” And then washes his hands of Jesus' death. But before he is arrested and executed, Jesus prays to the Father, “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” Assuming the Father answered this prayer by fulfilling Jesus' petition, what changed? How are we different? 

 When something is consecrated it is set apart for some special use and only that use. Chalices are consecrated for use at Mass. Churches are consecrated for public worship. We don't use a chalice to swig beer nor do we use a church to host a crawfish boil. When a person is consecrated something similar happens. That person is set apart for some special task and only for that task. Monks and nuns come to mind. They are consecrated to a life of prayer. Dominican friars are consecrated to a life of preaching. And all baptized Christians are set apart to give public witness to the Gospel. So when Jesus asks the Father to consecrate us in the truth, what is he asking? It seems that he's asking God to set us aside in the truth; that is, to move us over into the truth in some special way, to preserve us for some special task that requires that we be in the truth. Now that awful question rises again, “What is the Truth?” Jesus answers, “Your word is truth.” God's word is truth. God's promises are truth itself. All that God has spoken through the Law, the Prophets, and through the Word made flesh is truth. All that God has revealed to us through scripture, creation, and His Christ is truth. Jesus is asking his Father to set us apart to live in His truth while we reside in the world. 

 Jesus' petition for our consecration is bracketed by two statements: “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world” and “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” Because we belong to Christ, we cannot belong to the world. However, Jesus says that he sends us into the world as he himself was sent. Therefore, we must be consecrated in the truth, set apart in God's word so that we can bear witness to His mercy in a world to which we do no belong. Jesus says, “I gave them your word, and the world hates them. . .” Of course it does! The world loves violence, spite, revenge, falsehood, and death. God's word shines the glaring light of truth on the world's most fundamental spiritual darkness: the pride of a creature that has rejected the rule of its Creator. We are set apart in God's word to announce the Good News of His mercy. We are not set apart so that we can pretend to be politically infallible, or economically incorruptible, or scientifically inerrant. We are set apart in the death and resurrection of Christ as that we might be witnesses, givers of testimony to the word we have received: this world will pass, God's truth will not. His truth endures forever, and so do all those who receive His truth and announce His Good News.

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