Thirty Third Sunday Reflection
Truth is hard to bear! Yes, Jesus, the truth does set us free; but we also know from experience that first, that truth is going to P … us off! The truth of the cross brings us face to face with the very humiliating truth about ourselves; we are, all of us, sinners under the righteous curse of God’s law and are unable to redeem ourselves. At the end of days, all are empty posturing, all our illusions of control, all our choreographed stories and all the things we cling to, our strength, our beauty, and our youth, the things and the people that we cherish and cling to, all will become ash slipping through our fingers.
Yet, there is so much shouting, outrage and demanding to be heard. This group against that group, and every group shouting their own truth, yet there is an aversion to any narrative contradicting what ‘I know to be true’.
For two years, the teenage Jewish girl, Anne Frank, hid in terror from the Gestapo in an attic with seven members of her family. Anne kept a diary, which her father found after the war ended. I think these are the reflection of many young people today. In one remarkable passage she writes:
It’s twice as hard for us young people to hold our ground, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God.
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart.
I see the world being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.
What an amazing expression of faith and hope at a time of such upheaval and betrayal. Anne never saw peace and tranquillity return. One day the dreaded knock came to the door. She and her family were taken to Belsen Concentration Camp where they were murdered.
What is it that helps a person to endure?
The truth and justness of one’s cause can give us great strength; just as David faced Goliath. The presence, example, and support of others is also a great help. And then there is the best help of all, namely, faith. Faith gives one the conviction, the hope that God is Good, and goodness will triumph in the end. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here”.
In a world of so much social and political turmoil, people of faith will often be regarded as naïve, ineffective or irrelevant. However, we must not be afraid of such scepticism and cynicism, but trust that God will give us the strength to hold our ground.
Looking at our own death, our own personal last days helps us to see how we should be living our lives now. To decide on what are the things that are of true value so that we may preserve in the strength of truth, love, compassion, and forgiveness.
The Church puts the last days before us today so that we may gauge our own canon; may evaluate what is right and what is wrong in our present-day living. It can be equally frightening and humiliating to recognise and acknowledge our own paranoia and the nightmares of our illusions. We must see ourselves as we are reflected from the face of the cross so that the Spirit of God may lead us to see Truth correctly and to re-direct our lives accordingly. Truth is that relationship with God that resonates within us.
Our readings also warn us against false prophets; false prophets within our own communities; prophets of doom; prophets who speak of an angry and vindictive God who destroys God’s own creation, God’s own children with wrath and molten fire-heated in the heart of the sun.
This often comes about through transferring our own vindictiveness and anger onto God; seeing God as the path to vengeance and revenge. How do we protect ourselves from false prophets?
Hans Urs van Balthazar spoke of truth as being symphonic. This is the way of listening to God’s Word also. When you have listened all the way through, learnt it, appreciated and enjoyed it, when you have come to love and live according to it, then when someone strikes a false note, you recognise it immediately. Hey, that doesn’t sound right! One of the musicians has made an error; played a false note.
Where the note is harsh and strident; where it lacks beauty, goodness, compassion, and love; this is how we come to know truth from falseness, even within ourselves.
To hear the truth, however, we must first become silent; letting the strident sounds of our ongoing judgment and unending commentary on all that comes before us. The promise of the end of injustice, oppression; a healing that will come about through truth, love, compassion, and forgiveness that leads to reconciliation and peace.
May our lives so resonate that goodness of God who looks on creation with the tenderness of a creator, the joy of a gardener and the maternal heart of Mercy.