Jesus Christ – Defender of Truth – Father John Gallas
Here is Father John Gallas’ homily given at CatholicManNight on January 13, 2011:
The topic for this evening is Jesus Christ, Defender of Truth. The emphasis Christ places on the importance of truth is clear from scripture: He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Not I have the truth, but I am it. Tonight: Why knowing the truth is a vital necessity and why it is worth fighting for.
When we are created, the mind is a blank slate. We do not come forth from our mothers thinking about mathematics or even about God. Truth has to enter the mind through learning.
If we say, what is truth? Very simply, it is a correspondence between what is in the mind, and reality. If my ideas correspond to what is really out there, then I know the truth. I am in touch with reality. And this affects our whole lives, for what we think determines what we feel and what we do. What enters the mind expresses itself in our behavior. For example, watch the stands at a football game. When there is an opening on the right, and everyone sees this and is thinking, “Run to the right!” everyone in the stands will lean to that side. What is in the mind works itself out in behavior and in life in general.
What if truth is not what we have in our mind? In that case, we either have ignorance or error. Ignorance is a blind spot. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us here are probably ignorant of how to perform an appendectomy, but we do not require that knowledge, so its not a problem. If we are ignorant of something necessary – like how to be a good father, who is God, how to obtain eternal happiness – then our blind spot is a problem.
Error is when not truth but falsehood enters the mind. Just last night some students from Loretto posted a video on facebook in which a man affirms, with much eloquence and charm, that Jesus is anti-religion. It is a tired old argument based on many false premises and a selective reading of scripture. Christ isn’t anti-religion: He founded the Catholic religion. As Our Lord said, “If the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” Mt 6:23 Error is like a poison for the mind. It puts us out of touch with reality, sometimes with devastating consequences.
When I am in ignorance or error, what is in my mind will work itself out in my life, and unfortunately that is exactly what is happening in our society. We are walking through life out of step with truth, out of touch with reality, every bit as much as the person with a mental disorder, except that now, it is fashionable to be in ignorance or to subscribe to popular errors. If you are ignorant of who God is, many will respond with an error, saying, you’re a good person, you’ll be alright. Not so! It’s because we’re not good people that we need God! If we assert the error that religion is for weak-minded people, many in our culture will respond not with the medicine of truth but with the poison of affirming us in our darkness. Being a defender of the truth is to say, this is not an acceptable situation. Truth is the health of the mind. Some truths are worth dying for. Jesus is the truth.
Today, truth is under attack, and I would like to highlight three particular attacks on truth that I believe we are witness.
First, the peer pressure attack, by which I mean something very particular. You strive to be a good man, you love God, but then people you love start to go astray. Your child decides to move in with their fiance before the wedding, or you have a child or a brother or a friend who says, I am not heterosexual, and you are subtly pressured to give approval. What happens? In many instances, Catholic parents cave in. And we become like Adam in the garden: I know God said this is wrong, but Eve did it! I have to stick with Eve! Not so! Eve made a mistake.
On the natural level, God gives you a greater love for your children than for anyone else. Yet love that is not in accord with truth is not love. The spiritual medicine is to bestow the truth in love. How different would the world be today had Adam behaved manfully, and said, Eve, you are wrong, I will not follow you down that path, but I will still love you. Serpent – the influences of evil – I’m going to kill you. You’re gone. The medicine for the peer pressure attack is to eliminate the evil influences and the lies to the full extent of our power, to mend and love the fallen, without giving approval to evil actions, and it takes a lot of patience and a lot of courage. But it’s you and Jesus together.
Second, for lack of a better term, truth is being attacked by the hubris of superficial knowledge. I’m talking about the person who read an article in a medical magazine and now they know how to diagnose. The person who met an angry priest once so now they know the truth about Christianity. The person who heard a bible passage that mentions violence, so now they know what the bible is all about. Unfortunately, this is precisely the kind of Catholics we are producing and educating. With only 30% of Catholics practicing their faith, something has gone dreadfully wrong. Successfully handing on the faith intact from one generation to the next is like moving the football downfield toward the endzone, passing it from the hands of one player to the next. We might say Catholic youth formation today, with some noteworthy exceptions, has the effectiveness of the Minnesota Vikings offense: We aren’t moving the ball, in many cases.
As a consequence, many today receive in their Catholic formation or Wednesday night religion only a fragmentary image of who Christ really is, and then they examine this image and they can see that it has nothing to offer, they don’t realize that it is superficial, and so they move on. They’ll say, “Oh yes I love the Church, but I disagree with the Church on this or that.” But how can you disagree with what you do not understand? For example, I have met many people who say they disagree with the Church’s teaching on purgatory. But when I ask, what is that teaching, exactly? How does the Church see the roots of this essential doctrine in the Old Testament, in the nature of God’s gradual process of the sanctification of man, in the damaging consequences of sin which must be repaired before entrance into paradise – they fall silent. The medicine for this attack is knowledge. We’ve got to pursue ongoing education in knowledge of the faith, taking classes, reading books, listening to cd’s, even keeping the Penny Catechism at the dinner table and reading just one line each night — so that we can speak with intelligence against the weak attacks given by those with only fragmentary knowledge of Christ. Even the weakest attack will be successful if it comes against a defenseless village.
And finally, I would be remiss if I did not also point out the temptation to use truth as a blunt weapon for hitting people over the head. To tolerate lies is a failing, but so too is that proclamation of the Gospel which pays no heed to finding the right time and place, and remembering charity, tact and joy.
This evening, in the presence of Christ our Lord, let us examine our relationship with truth. Do we adhere with religious submission of intellect and will to the teachings of Christ, as given by the Church? Do we exercise courage as well as tact in taking a stand against the many attacks against truth in our families and in our society? Do we seek to have a thorough knowledge of Christ in both prayer and reading, so that we may better be prepared to defend the truth? May Our Lady of Fatima watch over each of us and our families.