Wednesday, 23 April 2008

6th Sunday of Easter - Year A

Acts 8:5-8.14-17; 1Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

Have you seen the new programme from America called The Moment of Truth? The questions it raises are far more interesting than the programme itself which, to tell the truth, is disappointingly contrived. Yet the concept is fascinating.

Take an ordinary man or woman and offer them a choice between truth, money, or their own reputation and see what happens. Actually, the results are mostly unedifying and tend to give a bleak picture of the integrity of the contestants.

Presiding over the charade is the god Polygraph whose disembodied female voice judges with heartless and misplaced confidence: That answer is true. That answer is false.

Viewers complacent enough to continue watching beyond the first episodes of this show might eventually come to realise that it deals more often than not in isolated facts about its sacrificial victims, rather than in the truth. Hopefully, as these sit at home counting their loot and coming to terms with their losses they will come to realise they have been duped and not be overpowered by the ugly glimpse they caught of themselves – not in a moment of truth but – in a moment of greed.

Facts are very different from truth, indeed, facts can lie. My photo of myself at 18 looking for all the world like the heart throb of the day, Ricky Nelson, is undeniably a photo of me, but it lies. I have never, sad to say, borne a resemblance to Ricky Nelson. The charcoal cartoon sketch I brought home from Paris, on the other hand, is recognisably me. Somehow, Monsieur Whoever, in a few strokes of genius, captured the truth with a stick of charcoal and anyone seeing his work exclaims: Hey, that’s you!

The Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in the very act of adultery – no doubt at all about the facts – and now she deserves to die. Jesus looks at her and sees the truth – so very different from the facts – and refuses to condemn her. The tax collector Matthew sits at the counting house despised by all and yet Jesus, seeing the truth about Matthew, calls him into his most intimate circle.

God alone knows the truth about us – we can only know facts - that's why no man can judge another.

Pontius Pilate was totally baffled by the concept 'truth', the Pharisees failed to recognise it when it stared them lovingly in the face, the Greeks laughed at it for its simplicity, Judas sold it not for $500,000 but for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus bore faithful witness to it and then gave his life for it.

Truth is the only real power in this world. That is why Jesus, on leaving his disciples, gave them not courage or eloquence but the Spirit of truth. That would be all they needed - they would be invincible - and the gates of hell would not prevail against them.

I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive…

Truth is like gravity, always drawing us back to itself. It needs no army to defend it – it cannot be overcome – only struggled against. Truth is the very power of being – written into the DNA of our existence – nor can it be 'genetically modified.'

When we fight truth we fight ourselves and take ourselves captive. When we believe the truth, surrender to truth, speak the truth, do the truth, we truly become who we were created to be – we become like Jesus. This is because ultimately and inescapably, in the Christian view, the truth is a person, a man with a name – Jesus – a man who is God.

This man showed us in his life, death and resurrection that only truth will stand eternally – because it brings us into communion with God who is Truth – and who is Eternal. All falsehood is doomed eventually to pass away.

Truth has many names, all the names of God – Love, Mercy, Justice, Light, Life.

Truth is constantly searching for us. It seeks to dwell in human hearts and to become act in human lives. The deeds of truth are many - service, obedience, sacrifice, forgiveness, while the greatest expression of truth is the love that keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will keep my commandments.

Obedience to God’s commandments is a non-negotiable for the lover of truth - it is the path to Life.

The loving eyes of Jesus see the truth about each one of us. As John 2:25 says: he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.

How disconcerting! To be gazed at by the eyes of truth! And yet - how comforting! There is one who can understand me, penetrate my defences, untangle my self-deceptions, look beyond the facts, and offer me a Way to freedom from my greatest enemy - untruth. And that Way is himself - the Truth and the Life.

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