18 May 2024

How do we know it's true?

7th Week of Easter (S)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

We know that John's testimony is true. That's what John says about himself in his gospel. How do we know that his testimony is true? Well, it depends on what we mean by “know” and “true.” If we think that “knowing the truth” is about having overwhelming scientific evidence that a statement is true or false, then it would be difficult to say whether or not John's testimony is true. His gospel purportedly records real historical events taking place in real physical places. We know from other historical sources that these events took place and that these places are real. But is the gospel just about events and places? That is, is what's fundamental to the Good News verifiable through history and geography? As an incarnational faith, Christianity is certainly revealed and practiced in space and time. So, yes, history and geography are vital. But the gospels do more than give us verifiable facts like the time and location of the crucifixion, etc. The gospels record how sinners – like you and me – encountered Christ and came to follow him into a new life. That sort of witness can be true w/o being factual. How do you “fact-check” an encounter with the Living God? You can't. So, how do we know that John's testimony is true? In one sense, we don't. In another, more important sense, we do. Our own experiences of being forgiven and re-created in Christ matches what John – and Mark and Matthew and Luke – says about his own love of Jesus and how that love transformed him. We recognize – re-think or think-again – how we were brought into relationship with Christ. We see how others are brought into the Body and flourish as new creatures. We see people who have hit rock bottom, fall on through into surrender, and receive God's abundant mercy. We see ourselves fall and fail and get back up with the grace of God and march on with the work we've been given to complete. We've seen the ones we love – maybe even ourselves – fall out of the faith altogether and return when the darkness get too thick to breathe. We've grieved and loved and forgiven and lost, and we did it all with Christ by our side. That kind of truth isn't testable in a lab or checked in an archive. It's lived. And we have the gospels to give us the divine pattern of living in the world w/o being of it. We have the gospels to show us the possibilities of being Christ for others as he was and is for us. We know John's testimony is true b/c it's our testimony. . .in a different age with different characters and better technology. . .but the testimony – at its root – never changes. John's testimony? Christ died so that we don't have to. Repent. Believe. And follow Christ.

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