Trust in the truth
It is not unusual to suggest that people have been ‘economical with the truth’. Generally, this is a kind way of suggesting that they have been embellishing a story or telling a ‘white lie’ to avoid giving offence.
However, in this new age of tweeting on social media, in some circles at least the truth seems to have become a rare commodity. If lying becomes commonplace, it certainly damages trust and inevitably human relations become strained and societies becomes divided. But, while there is always the temptation to conclude that we are seeing a deterioration in behaviour by comparison with a bygone era, there is no doubt that duplicity and deceit have been part and parcel of the human story from the very beginning.
This Sunday the Church invites us to reflect on how Moses reassured his people that God would raise up a prophet like himself, to whom they must listen and in whom they could trust. There is also a warning for those prophets who choose to go their own way: they will not prosper. The Old Testament is littered with the stories of such prophets who tried to mislead the people for their own ends.
Ultimately, Moses is pointing us towards the coming of Jesus. At the beginning of his gospel, Mark is determined that we should get the connection by establishing the authority of Jesus, who acts and speaks in a manner that the people had clearly not been used to. Jesus makes a deep impression on them precisely because he teaches ‘with authority’. He speaks the truth.
The battle between good and evil is going to be waged. It is the man who possesses the spirit of evil who identifies Jesus of Nazareth as “the Holy One of God”. This is the truth that Mark wishes to establish in our minds right from the outset. Everything that follows is designed to reinforce that message. In our age, as in every age, we are caught up in the great struggle between good and evil.
At the same time, the recurring theme is that Christ, through his passion, death and glorious resurrection, has conquered, and that his victory is our victory if we allow his Spirit to dwell within us.
By the time John is writing his gospel, after a lifetime of meditating on this mystery, John repeatedly returns to the notion of truth. He recalls that Jesus, at the Last Supper, points out to Thomas that he (Jesus) is “the way, the truth and the life”, having previously taught those who took his word to heart: “you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.”
In an age of fake news, we will do well to ensure that we always speak the truth, and then we can enjoy the freedom that follows.
Tim Buckley CSsR
© Majellan Media 2021