Handling the truth
By Alvin Peters
How many of you remember this classic scene from the movie, A Few Good Men? A military defence lawyer, Lt Daniel Kaffee, is questioning the commanding officer, Colonel Jessup, whom he believes gave orders to commit a murder. Kaffee demands: “I want the truth!”. Col Jessup says this famous line: “You can’t handle the truth!”
Many times in our lives it is difficult for us to handle the truth or to accept the complete truth. In the gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles that He has many things to tell them but that it would be too much for them now. What does Jesus mean? Is He a divine version of Col Jessup? Certainly not! Our tiny, finite minds cannot comprehend an infinite universe or why we yawn, far less who God is and why the story of redemption continues to go the way He has designed it. So God, in His infinite love and wisdom, sent the Holy Spirit, to be our teacher. He will in time give the truth to us.
This reminds me of a question a student had asked me, “Sir, if Jesus is the Son of God, how can He also be God? That doesn’t make sense.” I am sure many of you as educators faced challenging questions like that one. The student looked straight at me waiting for an answer. I said, “It is a mystery to us. Our minds cannot fully understand the nature of God so He reveals Himself to us in ways that we can barely grasp. We must rely on our faith.” I am not sure if the answer satisfied that student but it was the best that I could give.
As we celebrate our belief in the Triune God, we must also reflect on how the Father, Son and Spirit exists together in perfect, loving harmony, living in the truth. If we want to have an iota of that beauteous harmony with God and each other, then we too must live in the truth. Not the truth we want but the complete truth. To do this, we must be humble and ask Our Lord to help us to cut through our emotions, presumptions and biases and to help us to have the faith to accept His Truth. His Grace said in his homily at the launch of the Synod that we must listen to the good, the bad and the ugly about our Church. That extends I think to all aspects of our lives. Sometimes, the truth is wonderful. Other times, it is terrible. Therefore, we must pray for patience and acceptance as the truth is revealed to us as people of His Church and as individuals.
Facing painful, personal truths can disturb our core beliefs of who we are and how we think of ourselves in the world. When they are revealed, we are angry and in denial. But if we truly want joy and peace then we must pray for an acceptance of the truth. Only then can the healing begin. And that my friends is not the end. Eventually, more truths will be revealed to us. Some of them once again may be troublesome and hurtful and once again we must ask God for mercy, forgiveness and healing. Looking back I have asked myself: could I have handled all of those revelations and those yet to be made manifest all at once? Never! It takes time, courage and the grace of God to handle the truth as it comes.
The Church is also in the business of the truth. One of my favourite memes is a boy sitting on Santa’s lap asking: ‘Homoousios or homoiousios?’. Santa is confused and the boy declares: ‘You’re not the real St Nicholas’. That question was asked during the council of Nicaea. Is Jesus of the same substance therefore consubstantial with the Father (homoousios) or a similar substance (homoiousios)? Today, we profess this truth in the Nicene Creed: Begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father. Time and again by various councils, the Spirit reveals the truth to us. By the way, the next time Santa comes to drop presents, ask him that question.
Some of the teachings of the Church can be difficult to accept because, like the student I mentioned earlier, it does not make sense with our version of the truth. A truth which at times is based on our feelings, personal experience or acceptable views of the world. Empathy and compassion should be extended to those who have difficulties adhering to those teachings. Many of them like us are searching for meaning in their lives.
We must like Lt Kaffee pursue the truth and when the inner Col Jessup says that you can’t handle it, we should ask the Spirit to help us to be humble and to have faith, not just to handle the truth as it is revealed to us but to eventually live joyously in it. Just like that those wonderful persons in the Blessed Trinity.
Holy Trinity, give us courage to seek and accept the truth as Your Spirit reveals it to us in our lives, each other and the Church. No matter how difficult things may be help us to live in the truth so we will grow closer to You in holiness, work in harmony to build Your Church and labour towards a productive and peaceful nation named after You.
The gospel meditations for June are by Alvin Peters, a Catholic primary school teacher and a member of the Cathedral/Sacred Heart Parish.