Friday, May 27, 2005

Who is Truth?

Nearly 2000 years ago, Pontius Pilate immortalized himself as the Patron Sinner of all relativists. He acquired this dubious distinction by uttering his infamous question: "What is truth?" The problem was, he asked the wrong question. He should have asked instead, "Who is truth?" for the Answer was standing right before him.

Pope Benedict XVI has recently lamented the "dictatorship of relativism" in modern society. The very existence of objective truth is dismissed in many intellectual circles, and this attitude trickles down to the average person, who thus confuses truth with subjective preference or feeling. It is rather arrogant (to say the least) for people today, who are the latest of the latecomers in the history of the universe, to think they can decide for themselves what is true. "True," in most cases, usually means what suits them at the time, or perhaps it is identified with the majority decisions of fellow relativists.

But God has spoken, and when God speaks the universe must listen. It can try to turn a deaf ear, but it will not succeed forever. The Word that God spoke was incarnate in our Lord Jesus Christ, who said: "I am the Truth" (John 14:6). Truth is ultimately a Person, not a formula or an abstraction, still less an opinion or a collection of data or ideas subject to human manipulation. If a word, an idea, a teaching, can be rightly considered true, it is because it corresponds to the One who is the Truth. That is why we have to pay very close attention to the words of Christ. These are the words of God, for He is the Word of God. Here is where we find the truth. Christ is foreign to nothing that is true, and nothing that is true is foreign to Christ. But to be known as truth, everything must find its source, its resonance, its fulfillment, in the Incarnate Word of God.

Admittedly, in the words available to us in the Gospels, we do not find direct answers to all of our pressing 21st-century issues. That is why Jesus, having ascended to his Father, sent us the Spirit of Truth, "who will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit guides the Pope, and all the leaders of the Church who are in union with him, to proclaim the truth to the world. The truth that is proclaimed is not "the Pope's truth," as opposed to "your truth" or "my truth." Those are the categories of today's deceptive relativism. The truth is one, for God is one, and what the Church proclaims is what God has revealed. The Spirit of Truth guides our hearts and consciences as well, and we will know for sure that we have the Spirit if our conscience does not reject or refute divine revelation.

We ought to be grateful that we don't have to grope in the darkness in the search for truth. Even though truth is, in a certain sense, limiting, for it draws the line beyond which is falsehood, it is at the same time liberating, because Jesus, who is the Truth, sets us free. We become free from the darkness of ignorance and of evil, and free for the abundant life of joy and blessedness that Christ came to give--here, and especially hereafter. He makes us secure in the truth of his words, the truth of his very being as the eternal Word of God.

The issue of truth is essential to our salvation. Among those who are denied entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven are "all those who love and practice falsehood" (Revelation 22:15). The words of Christ are valid forever. He does not swing with the times; He does not follow the latest trends, nor is He evolving into a more enlightened consciousness. He doesn't have to, for "His wisdom made the heavens" (Psalm 135/136:5). Christ speaks and angels fall prostrate. It is only his stiff-necked people who refuse to hear and believe. "Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; what wisdom can be in them?" (Jeremiah 8:9).

God's word is all-powerful, yet He does not condescend to compete with the shrill noises of this world; He doesn't attempt to shout down the garrulous deceivers. But listen carefully, and you will hear. The Truth will reach open hearts, those who have ears to hear. Be willing to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, continue in his word, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).