“‘Truth?’ said Pilate. ‘What is that?'”
John 18: 38
Pope Benedict reminded us that “man’s unique grandeur is ultimately based on his capacity to know the truth”. The search for truth is something which is written into the human heart; and yet, while that search is written into us, we can still become quite lost in the course of the search. Even a cursory look at world events at the moment reveals that whilst we all search for truth of some sort, so many have lost the way and succumbed to diversions and delusions and a blindness which is hard to comprehend. And when we lose the way, the end result is inevitable. One of the saddest parts about losing the way is when we become so entrenched in our erroneous beliefs that we do not even see that we have become lost – and we do not wish to find the way back. However, the one positive of being lost is that it opens up the possibility of being found, of finding our way back onto the safe and sure path.
But what is that safe and sure path – what is Truth? Ultimately, for the Christian, truth is not some abstract concept or some transcendent idea. No. Rather, Truth is a Person – Jesus Christ. In St John’s Gospel, He tells us “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
There are times when we are genuinely confused about what is truth and what is not. At those times, we need only look to the Lord and ask ourselves how well – or otherwise – we are emulating Him and following the commands He laid down in the Gospels. How well are we loving God? How well are we loving our neighbour? And who is our neighbour? Of course, it is everyone else, without any exception whatsoever. Perhaps the test, then, is this – out of love of God, how well are we loving the person to whom we are least inclined?
At other times, we may have an idea that something is not truth – and choose that alternative whilst knowing this either partially or fully. That is both blindness and folly. Our consicence, if well formed, will throw light on this for us. But to be well formed, our consciences need to be guided – and this is when the authentic and consistent message of the Church becomes crucial. It is also when prayer is required. But it requires one more thing – it requires that our hearts, our minds, our consciences be open to Truth, and to being corrected when we stand in error. Persistance in error is a dangerous this.
Pope Fancis speaks often about the ‘culture of encounter’ – by this, he means the need to speak with and listen to others around us, even when (and especially when) their views are different to ours, when they present to us another perspective, when we disagree with what they have to say. And he is right – it is only through genuine encounter that we truly allow ourselves to be opened in the way described above. That is a hard thing to do, needless to say, and it can be very challenging for us because it may lead us to the realisation that we have a need to change in some way.
Watching the events taking place in the world, and particularly in the United States of America at the moment, this is perhaps a good moment for all of us to pause, to reflect and to ask ourselves if there is any way in which we have a need of change, a need to find our way back to that safe and sure path.
In this, let us always keep looking toward the Lord, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.