Love for the truth
The apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States ended this past Sunday in New York City. It has been a special moment of grace for Catholics and people of good will all over the country.
By Archbishop Jose H Gomez
His visit has been a resounding reaffirmation of the values and beliefs that we hold in common with our fellow Americans. Our response to the Holy Father, and most importantly, to his message, is a sign of the deep abiding faith and hope that defines the people of this great nation.
One of the most attractive teachings of the Holy Father to the people of the United States was his insistence on the gift of freedom that we have in our society. At the White House this past week, the Holy Father said that freedom is a gift, “but also is a summons to personal responsibility.” With those words, the pope challenges us to awaken in our hearts our individual calling to be peacemakers to a world darkened by fear and uncertainty.
Then in his homily at Yankee Stadium in New York City, he said that “Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free. (cf. Jn 8:32) And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality.”
The commandment that refers to the importance of truthfulness in our lives, it is the eighth commandment: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’ Most people tend to reduce this commandment to not telling lies.
But as the Compendium of the Catechism explains, “Every person is called to sincerity and truthfulness in acting and speaking. Everyone has the duty to seek the truth, to adhere to it and to order one’s whole life in accordance with its demands. In Jesus Christ the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. He is ‘the truth.’ Those who follow him live in the Spirit of truth and guard against duplicity, dissimulation and hypocrisy.” (Compendium 521)
Many spiritual writers for this same reason indicate that the most grave sin of Pontius Pilate was not declaring himself innocent of Jesus Christ’s blood, but rather asking “What is truth?” without waiting for an answer from him who was the very Truth incarnate. By turning his back on the truth, Pilate set in motion the machinery that would end with Jesus’ death.
Loving truth not only means not telling overt lies. It means avoiding any type of offense against the truth.
As the Catechism teaches us, one sins against the truth with gossip, slander, defamation and even insinuations that hurt or destroy one’s good reputation and honor, to which everyone has the right.
We know the teaching — which some attribute to St. Philip Neri — according to which slander is like tossing thousands of small feathers in all directions: it is very easy to throw them; but then it is almost impossible to pick them up.
When we slander, or are part of a chain that transmits slander and gossip, we are walking down a path that it is very hard to retrace.
Truth is also lacking with the opposite vice: with flattery or indulgence, especially when immoral benefits are sought thereby.
That is why the church teaches that every sin committed against the truth must be corrected.
And this principle of justice not only obligates individuals: the communication media must also know how to be guided by this fundamental virtue of love of truth, reporting the facts truthfully and fully, respecting the legitimate rights and dignity of people, without unjustifiably insinuating or leading to negative judgments.
The eighth commandment therefore involves love of truth above any conjecture or passion.
As the Catechism says, “The truth is beautiful in itself,” and it is that beauty of the truth that should move us to seek it, love it, defend it and announce it.
“A Christian must bear witness to the truth of the Gospel in every field of his activity, both public and private, and also if necessary, with the sacrifice of his very life. Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith.” (Compendium 522)
Loving and defending the truth in the midst of a world of growing relativism is not a minor or irrelevant thing.
And that is why the Catechism talks about something as radical as martyrdom.
In our daily lives, however, we do not have to go that far. We are not usually between life and death when it is a matter of defending the truth. But our attitude toward it cannot be indifferent.
The first apostolic visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will remain with us for a long time. He has brought to us the presence of Christ, our hope, and a renewed enthusiasm for our Catholic faith.
I ask our Lord, through the intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother, to give us the grace to continue reflecting on the clear, profound an exciting teachings of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to joyfully renew our commitment to be apostles of Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, in the 21st century.
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