Jeremiah the prophet is in a tough place in last Friday's first reading at Mass. He says, "I hear the whisperings of many: "Terror on every side! Denou
nce! let us denounce him! All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. 'Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.'" All this because he dared to speak a hard truth to them on behalf of God. "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to bring such evil upon this place that all who hear of it will feel their ears tingle.
Jesus, too, finds himself in a difficult spot. “'I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?' The Jews answered him, 'We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.'” Jesus is saying, basically, "If my words don't convince you that I am from God, what about the works I do?" Jesus can't deny who he is. He chooses not to lie, for that would make him a child of the Father of Lies.
We live in a world in which the existence of objective truth is doubted or denied. If there is no truth, then there really is no such thing as a lie, either. Instead, we "misspeak," "get our facts confused," "forget," and, most of all, choose to manipulate people and decisions by our selective presentation of events, data, and ideas. Call it what you will, such disingenuous behavior clearly is an attempt to control other people, debates, decisions, events, and perspectives. It is yet another facet of the age-old Fall. We desire to be gods according to our own designs and our own will.
Jesus, on the other hand, chooses to speak the truth. He is subject to the truth as though it is something greater than Him; as though it is something He serves. If Satan is the Father of Lies, it would seem to follow that God the Father is the Father of Truth, and His Son is that Word of Truth made flesh. And this Word asks his would-be persecutors, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, "You are gods"‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?" Here He is referring to the judges that, since they exercised the divine prerogative to judge were called "gods".
To lie is a perversion of who we are meant to be. In lying we seek to make ourselves petty little gods, while setting aside the opportunity of aligning ourselves with the Word of God like the judges of ancient Israel. They, like the prophets who followed them later, became great - godlike, even - because they served the truth.
This is not an easy choice for two main reasons.
1) I do not have a complete grasp of the truth. My knowledge and wisdom are limited, as is my experience. I can, at best, seek the truth, but I must acknowledge that the most important truths may be beyond my full apprehension. The seeking of truth must be a communal venture taken up in humility by all involved.
2) Revelation, or that truth which is given to us by God, will always be a challenge to my behavior and attitudes. God's ways are not my ways, and accepting a truth that stands outside my limited comprehension will not only be difficult for me, it will be difficult for those around me should I choose to live according to that truth. I can expect opposition, misunderstanding, even persecution. And here's the rub. In a community, say, the Dominicans, for example, if I am opposed is it
because I am wrong - or because I have grasped some challenging truth!? I have met many people who felt persecuted for the truth they shared who, in my estimation, were just eccentric - and wrong.
So as you approach Holy Week this year, it might be good to reflect upon the idea of truth as not just something to which you are invited to submit yourself, but also Someone. How willing are you to be obedient, humble and trusting - like a sheep led to the slaughter. Because that is what entrusting yourself to the truth often feels like.