Is Truth Important?
From Living God's Word Year B by Father David M. Knight
Reflections and Actions for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Numbers 11:25 – 29; James 5:1 – 6; Mark 9:38 – 48
Jesus tells his disciples not to worry if someone not visibly united to them is working miracles in his name. "Anyone who is not against us is for us," he tells them.
Finally, Christians have begun to follow this teaching. We do not condemn people of other denominations, or even of non – Christian religions, like we used to. We respect any sign of good will in each other. Catholics read Protestant authors and vice versa. We accept a non – Christian like Mohandas Ghandi as someone whose insight into Jesus' teaching about nonviolence may be clearer than our own. We are willing to learn from anyone who studies Jesus and whose life bears witness to love of God. Humility is truth, and to be open to truth, wherever it comes from, is humility.
But Jesus adds, "If anyone leads people away from the truth, that person would be better off dead!" Jesus does not take truth lightly. Truth guides action, and our actions lead us either toward the fullness of life or toward the emptiness of a death that is more than the death of the body. To die to truth and goodness and to deep, vital relationship with Christ is to die to everything that lasts, everything that really is. It is to die to the goodness of our own existence.
People still say, "It does not make any difference what you believe as long as you are sincere." This is absurd. Does it make no difference what doctors believe about health care so long as they are sincere? Or what politicians believe is good for the country so long as they are sincere? Or what bankers believe is a good investment, so long as they are sincere? Sincerity frees us from guilt, but it does not free us from the consequences of our choices. And the consequences, even of sincere bad choices, can be disastrous.
We seldom preach about hell anymore. I do not know why others do not, but I have two reasons: First, it is so hard to know when a person (even oneself) has the sufficient knowledge and full consent of the will required for mortal sin, that we cannot just say anymore, as we did in the old days, "If you do this and die without repenting, you are going straight to hell." We still believe and teach that people who die in a state of mortal sin (sin which separates us from Christ and constitutes a rejection of the life of grace) are lost in hell forever. But we cannot say when, in any individual's life, a particular sin is mortal. Nor can we say, if we deliberately do something seriously wrong, that it is not mortal. My advice is, do not take the chance!
The second reason why I seldom, if ever, preach about hell is that my gut feeling (not infallible!) is that this is the time to motivate people by love, not fear. To be honest, I'm glad I had a lot of fear when I was young; I think it kept me out of trouble. But I cannot bring myself to use fear as a motive when I preach today. I hope the people who need fear, as I believe I did, will be able to generate their own!
But I can preach consequences! Leaving aside the question of guilt and mortal sin and hell, it is just a fact that every choice we make creates us, forms us, gives shape to our souls. God creates us as "human beings;" we create ourselves as the unique, individual persons we become. By our choices we write the meaning of our names. We become what we choose. If we lie, we become liars. If we hate we become haters. If we just follow our culture, we become wimps. And if we "change our minds" (metanoia) and repent, we become new again! What we write we can erase and write over, so long as we are alive. Jesus is an open door.
And if we do not understand the truth, our choices will be bad and their effect on other people and on theworld around us will be bad. We can wreck our family life, business life, international relations by sincere bad choices. Jesus says it is better to lose anything than to do this, than to lose the truth that guides us well.
Reflecting on This Week's Gospels
Pray daily: Lord, you are the Life and the Light of God, the Savior and the Teacher of life. Help me to understand that by seeing your truth in its fullness I will be able to choose life in its fullness. Call me, motivate me to be your disciple.
Monday: Luke 9:46 – 50. "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name..." Jesus said, "Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you." Are you willing to forget all divisions and cooperate with anyone who is trying to do something good?
Tuesday: Luke 9:51 – 56. When the Samaritans would not receive them, the disciples asked, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them?" Jesus rebuked them. What is your spontaneous reaction to rejection? Your chosen response?
Wednesday: Luke 9:57 – 62. "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." How often do you "look back" to previous injuries or insults? Do you find Christ there?
Thursday: Luke 10:1 – 12. "Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you."' How many times recently have you tried to cure someone (to help someone live more fully) by speaking about something Jesus said, taught or did?
Friday: Luke 10:13 – 16. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." How do the sins to which you have died bear witness to Christ's power? To his love?
Saturday: Luke 10:17 – 24. "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants." How would dying to the things you worry about enhance your life?
Living This Week's Gospels
As Christian: Think about your call to evangelize. Talk seriously to someone who does not know Christ well enough to want to belong to a church. Invite someone to Mass with you.
As Disciple: Decide what teaching of Jesus or truth about Jesus inspires or helps you the most. What in the Gospel means the most to you? Think about how you could explain this to someone else.
As Prophet: See if you can think of some action you can do which, without words, will express or convey to others what Jesus means to you.
As Priest: Talk to someone of another faith, looking for common ground.
As King: Think of some particular issue which needs to be addressed where you live or work. Speak with one or more other people who might agree with you about it, regardless of their convictions about other things, and see if you can work together to remedy the situation.