Summary: Truth and faith are only possible when we share in a memory greater than the one we accumulate in our lifetime.
Thursday of 3rd Week in Lent 2014
Truth Has Perished
“Truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.” Thus the words of Jeremiah about the people of Israel. He could be saying it about modern life in the United States of America. Oh, there’s plenty of information. Never before have human beings been so inundated with facts, TV shows, Internet websites, radio commercials and news. But just consider one news story: from the NYT last Saturday: “A federal judge issued the latest in a string of rulings that say it is unconstitutional to deny marriage to gay couples.” Information, but no truth. Consider the word “gay.” When we were growing up, it meant “joyful, happy.” Today it means “shackled in an unnatural lifestyle to conduct that is sinful, physically harmful and scandalous.” That interpretation is the Truth, but it’s hidden behind a misused word. The whole sentence conveys accurate information, but flies from the Truth. The Truth, which the Times and the rest of the MSM tries desperately to conceal, is that the mavens of culture are successfully perverting God’s gift of marriage by using it to justify abusive behavior.
The cultural mavens of Jesus’s time were called Pharisees. In their minds, only blind obedience to their interpretation of Torah was appropriate. Jesus was a pariah to them because he taught that compassion and healing from sin and sickness were more important than nit-picky observance. He healed on the Sabbath; his disciples, when hungry, picked grain on the Sabbath. He claimed to forgive sin, a power reserved to God. He was the Truth, but they called Him an agent of Baalzebul, the lord of the flies, Satan. So being an enemy of Truth is not something invented by the Times. It’s just that modern culture thinks they can hide the Truth by flooding human eyes and ears and minds with useless and destructive information.
The popes, in reflecting on faith and truth, tell us more: “Language itself, the words by which we make sense of our lives and the world around us, comes to us from others, preserved in the living memory of others. Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory. The same thing holds true for faith, which brings human understanding to its fullness. Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others — witnesses — and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church. The Church is a Mother who teaches us to speak the language of faith. Saint John brings this out in his Gospel by closely uniting faith and memory and associating both with the working of the Holy Spirit, who, as Jesus says, “will remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). The love which is the Holy Spirit and which dwells in the Church unites every age and makes us contemporaries of Jesus, thus guiding us along our pilgrimage of faith.
“It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship between the “I” of the believer and the divine “Thou”, between an autonomous subject and God. By its very nature, faith is open to the “We” of the Church; it always takes place within her communion. We are reminded of this by the dialogical format of the creed used in the baptismal liturgy. Our belief is expressed in response to an invitation, to a word which must be heard and which is not my own; it exists as part of a dialogue and cannot be merely a profession originating in an individual. We can respond in the singular — “I believe” — only because we are part of a greater fellowship, only because we also say “We believe”. This openness to the ecclesial “We” reflects the openness of God’s own love, which is not only a relationship between the Father and the Son, between an “I” and a “Thou”, but is also, in the Spirit, a “We”, a communion of persons. Here we see why those who believe are never alone, and why faith tends to spread, as it invites others to share in its joy. Those who receive faith discover that their horizons expand as new and enriching relationships come to life. Tertullian puts this well when he describes the catechumens who, “after the cleansing which gives new birth” are welcomed into the house of their mother and, as part of a new family, pray the Our Father together with their brothers and sisters.”
Those who would distort language and hide the Truth, who is a person, Jesus Christ, have no interest in preserving continuity with the understanding of our ancestors, and least of all the Church. Why? Because they have woven a tangled but coherent web of lies to justify their sordid conduct. They have formed little communities of sin that all vote for those who ignore the primary function of government–to encourage good conduct and discourage evil conduct. That tacit conspiracy keeps them in power, and supports evil. How can we rid the world of such corruption? First, by prayer and fasting; and second, by uniting with all men of good will to take back the public square from those who have stolen it to evil purpose.