Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. The Gospel this Sunday is long with many themes but a most powerful and relevant message comes in the very last sentence. There Jesus urges his followers of every age to be people of honesty. We are to say “Yes” if we mean “Yes” and “No” if we mean “No”. Note that this teaching comes after the Gospel last week where he sends us out to be ‘salt of the earth and light of the world’. Jesus wants us to become salt and light – something we can only happen if we are committed to honesty.
This teaching is not only for religious people but is the basis for a civilization. For example, if I say ‘Yes’ to a friend of family member but really mean ‘No’ or vice versa then I damage that friendship or relationship with the other person. Trust is destroyed and is replaced by suspicion and fear. In fact, the importance of truth and honesty is such that even the State gets involved. In the justice system, people can be and are sent to jail for perjury – saying one thing in court but meaning another. And so, Jesus’ teaching on honesty is as relevant today as it was when he first gave it. The flourishing of humanity is built on trust. Without it we disintegrate into a culture of deception and fear.
In Jesus himself, the whole of God’s truth has been revealed. He is the ‘way, the truth and the life’. For us who are followers of Jesus Christ, his truth is something to live by and sets us free. When we live by the truth, we have nothing to fear. Loving the truth is loving Jesus himself. Being committed to the truth is being committed to Jesus himself, even when the consequences of doing so require suffering. We think here of Jesus before Pilate where he proclaimed that he had ‘come into the world to bear witness to the truth’. Standing there at the mercy of the one who could release him or crucify him, Jesus held fast to the truth of who he was. What he said was true and he said what he meant.
For many of the saints and martyrs of conscience, Jesus’ example was their inspiration and courage. We think of St Thomas More who stuck by his conviction that King Henry VIII was wrong to declare himself head of the Church; we think of Martin Luther King who dared to suggest the truth that people of different race are equal. We think here too of whistle blowers in institutions such as the Gardai and the Church. These are the people that God raises up to save us from corruption and deception. These are the people of courage who say ‘Yes’ if they mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ if they mean ‘No’. This is the truth they are willing to suffer for, in order to be faithful to it.
Our Church, our country and our world needs people of integrity and transparency like never before. We need people whose word is their bond and who conform their hearts to the truth rather than conforming the truth to suit themselves. We need people like Jesus himself whose words agreed perfectly with his actions.
As we embark on another week, we listen to the words of the first reading: ‘If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power’. This week, we commit ourselves again to God’s commandment of honesty and reject all forms of deceit and deception. For to love the truth is to love Christ. To reject lies and falsehoods is to reject Satan ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44). Choose the truth and be free.