Words to ponder: “Truth has too many preachers and few martyrs; hence our little credibility in the world” (Christian philosopher Carlos Diaz). Proclaiming the truth in life - even up to martyrdom - entails the following integrated and harmonized steps:to know the truth, to say the truth, and to do the truth in love.  

TO KNOW THE TRUTH

As a rational being, the human person is naturally inclined to search for the truth about life, faith and action. He or she knows the basic truth of personal life: all human beings are equal in dignity and rightsall. And the fundamental truth of social life: all States are by nature equal in dignity- all (cf. St. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris).  

To know the truth, we have to read, to study – continually. Moreover, we have to be up-to-date: society evolves, new problems arise and new signs of the times, which are to be interpreted correctly. Study is a continuing aid to a person’s vocation, a means to purify the soul and fight temptations, a kind of contemplation (St. Thomas Aquinas).               

To know the Truth is to know Christ – and to preach Christ: It is not ourselves we preach, but Christ Jesus as Lord (II Cor 4:5). Certainly, “Truth is not a thing we possess, but a Person by whom we must allow ourselves to be possessed” (Dialogue and Proclamation).

It is called the best anagram. Pilate asked Jesus: “Quid est veritas”?What is truth?(Jesus had answered earlier: “I am Truth”). We have learned that one may change the position of the Latin words and thus find the answer to Pilate’s question: “Quid est veritas?”  King Charles the First of England found the correct answer to Quid est veritaswhen he was in prison:“Est vir qui adest”: it is the man here present, that is, Jesus - Jesus is Truth (from W. Barclay).

As Christians, we are asked by our humanity and our faith to know the truth in the Sacred Scriptures, Christian Tradition and the magisterium of the Church.

 

TO SAY THE TRUTH

The essential purpose of human speech is to convey truth, for while words are messengers of the truth, lies are prostitution of words and sources of violence. Truthfulness, or saying the truth that is in our hearts continually, is an essential expression of respect for human dignity and rights. Human life comes into being, according to Martin Buber, in genuine encounters, which occur through communication. Telling the truth to others is a fundamental demand of dialogue. Real interpersonal dialogue is not possible if veracity is not present. Truthfulnessis a beautiful and necessary virtue for all humans, in particular, for pastors, preachers and teachers – and politicians -, who proclaim themselves the defenders and promoters of truth, freedom, justice and solidarity. Connected with the cardinal virtue of justice, truthfulness or veracity is the good operative habit that inclines persons to manifest both in their lives as well as in their speech, the convictions of their minds (cf. St. Thomas, STh, II-II, 109). We are truthful and true: the truth in our hearts is a reflection of the objective truth of reason and faith.

In certain situations and places, one may be forbidden to say the truth. Then, silence may be the prudent word. “A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est).

We have to dare to say the truth, when it is prudent and just to say it: to keep silent out of cowardice or fear is not ethical; to keep quiet in the face of glaring injustice and violence and corruption is not right. I remember the words of Cicero: “Truth is corrupted as much with lies as with silence and forgetfulness.” We have to say the whole truth humbly, but - as Bernanos said - without the pleasure of hurting.

We have to say the truth prudently, freely, justly, and with love – and, as much as possible, elegantly! Some time ago, I read this lovely story! There was a blind man, who begged for alms daily - seated on one side of the gate of the Church. On his right side, he placed a box for the alms, and on his left, a poster with this inscription: “I am a blind man. Please, help me!”The beggar got a few donations at the end of the day. Until one day a young man passed by, who after giving some alms to the blind man got his poster and wrote something on its blank back. From then on, the box was filled at the end of every day. The blind man was able to recognize the person who put the message on the back of the poster, now on its front: he was an expert in advertising and communication - and a good person. One day the beggar asked him: “What did you write on the back of my poster?” The man answered: “Just the truth: your message in a different way.” Next day the blind man asked a friend who passed by: “What is written on my poster?” The friend read: “Today is spring, and I cannot see it.”  For Christians, preachingChrist is always spring time, for He is the Crucified and Risen Lord, the Savior of humanity, the Truth that makes people free.

TO DO THE TRUTH IN LOVE. 

It is good … to proclaim your love in the morning and your truth in the watches of the night(Ps 92:2); “and preach thee, too, as love knows how, by kindly deeds and virtuous life(Hymn, Divine Office, Hours, Saturday). Our Christian commitment to Veritas, to Truth implies to know the truth of faith (orthodoxy) and to do the truth of life (orthopraxis). What matters most is orthopraxis, which means doing the truth in love. A Christian who knows his faith, but does not practice it in a substantial form is not a Christian, for a Christian follows Christ. In a sense, he or she is “fake news”! 

Furthermore, to do the truth entails to practice justice and love in freedom. To be truly free means to carry out in personal and social life the virtues of justice and love. Illuminating words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (Caritas in Veritate).

Christians – other believers and men and women of good will – are to witness the truth by a holy life, that is,to witness the truth in love. Jesus says: “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32) – free from sin, free from selfishness, and free to love. Jesus told the Pharisees: Even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the works I do(Jn 10: 38).  For all Christians, witnessing is the first form of evangelization. Certainly, “Modern man listens more to witnesses than to teachers; and if he does listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi). Witnessing must also be the first form of preaching and teaching. Pope Francis tells us: “All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord” (Evangelii Gaudium).

Let me close with the words St. Gregory of Nyssa addressed to believers in Christ, including himself: “If we are not to lie when we call ourselves Christians we must bear witness to it by our way of living” (Treatise on Christian Perfection).

By Fr. Fausto Gómez, OP