Living in the Truth

Click here for today’s Scripture readings.

Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
Jn 8:31-42

Many of us have heard the line in today’s Gospel; “The truth will set you free.”  Well, if your experiences are anything like mine, I found that this principle didn’t hold much water growing up.

When I was little, my younger brother taught me that the trick to getting out of dinner time chores was to sneak outside at the strategic time and hide behind the bushes so mom couldn’t find us if she needed us.  Of course, after the second or third time of hiding and then showing up just before dinner with leaves in my hair, my mom went outside to “water the bushes” and “accidently” watered the top of my head and surprise, there I was!  When she asked me what I was doing and I bravely decided to tell her the truth, much to my dismay, I got in trouble.  During my frequent sessions in the time out chair, I found myself wondering how far this whole telling the truth thing could really get you.

President Garfield once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”  In many ways, I think Garfield taps into the central message of the human experience and the message of today’s gospel.  If the gospel message is true, then why does it seem that our world allows deceit and corruption to exist unpunished while truth seem to be unrewarded and ridiculed?

Read on, and Jesus explains why: the slavery of sin.  When we take a hard look at ourselves, our shortcomings, our complacencies, we experience the desolation that comes with recognizing the sinful patterns in our lives that in reality, only make us miserable.  Similarly, when we see the reality of structural sin in our world, whether in an encounter with poverty or witnessing the effects of racism, we experience the overwhelming misery that is present in our world.   So often, however, rather than acknowledging these harsh realities in ourselves and in our world, we ignore them or assuage feelings of discomfort with superficial pleasures.  Being honest with ourselves and opening our eyes to injustice may makes us miserable at first, but it is the first step towards liberating ourselves and our world.

Jesus reminds us in the gospel that desolation and discomfort are not meant to dominate our lives, rather, we are called to free ourselves and to free our world from the bonds of sin and darkness so we can live in the truth and live in the light.   In the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, after undergoing desolation and recognizing the destructive patterns within ourselves, we are led to consolation and liberation.

When we begin to live in truth, in the light, and as a child of God, it may not get us out of dinner time chores or make us millions of dollars, but we will begin to see the miracles of each day, have the courage to work for justice, and will remember that indeed, like Marianne Williamson said, “ We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”

Jean Baumgardner
St. Vincent de Paul Society – Milwaukee, Meal Programs Manager
2009-2010 Passionist Volunteer International in Honduras

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