Playing with the truth

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

WE have to be most careful in handling the truth. First, we have to know what truth is, where to find it, why it is the truth, how to present it, etc. Otherwise, we can suffer what St. Augustine once said:

"They love truth when it enlightens them, but hate when it accuses them. In this attitude of reluctance to be deceived and intent to deceive others they love truth when it reveals itself but hate it when it reveals them. Truth will therefore take its revenge: when people refuse to be shown up by it, truth will show them up willy-nilly and yet elude them."

This Augustinian observation can be validated, at least partially, in that gospel episode about some leading Jews who, driven by unbelief that brought with it its usual cohorts of envy and hatred, asked Christ, "by what authority are you doing these things?" (cfr. Mk 11,27-33)

They were referring, of course, to Christ preaching and performing miracles and in the process drawing a lot of people to him. But Christ, knowing their motives, also asked them a question that has to be answered first before he would answer them. "Was John's baptism of heavenly or of human origin?"

This threw them into a quandary. If they answered one or the other, they would be caught in a bind, since they would certainly suffer the obvious bad consequence of each possible answer. And so they said they did not know. To which, Christ simply said: "Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things."

We have to understand that to be truthful, the first thing to do is to believe in God and to follow his commandments. After all, God is the creator of everything. He knows the ins and outs of all things, whether material, spiritual, natural, supernatural, etc. All we do is to discover them, not make or create them.

Our senses and intelligence alone can capture only so much truth. They cannot go all the way, and in fact, they always need another higher principle. This is where faith comes in.

We have to have faith in God first, before we can get to the truth. Faith enables us to accept truths that are beyond our capacity to see, hear and touch, and even to understand. Faith makes us accept truth through belief. What our Lord told the doubting Thomas is illustrative of faith.

"Have you believed, Thomas, because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (Jn 20,29)

Even in our ordinary, daily life, we use some kind of faith, because we simply have to trust people rather than go through the tedious process of investigating and studying as to whether this woman, for example, is really my mother or not, or whether the cook really serves me food and not poison, etc. We are wired for faith.

We just have to go all the way to the scope of faith and find that at the beginning and end of it, we will find God himself, the Creator, who made the universe, the author of all reality in all its infinite richness and variety of aspects and levels.

It would be at best a contingent truth, a relative truth, detached from its stable and ultimate moorings, and therefore can be shifty, unstable and vulnerable to be misused and abused. This is what we see around, and thus we are also quite in a mess.

We need to have some kind of revolution in our attitude towards truth. There has to be a conscious, deliberate effort to seek God who actually revealed himself fully in Christ and continues to reveal himself to us in the Holy Spirit. Unless, we do this, our affirmations of truth will always be suspicious.

Why, for example, do we make an oath before God when we say something really important?

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