Sunday, August 10, 2014

Telling the truth

As a newly ordained priest in 1989 I was assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes that had and still has a great school. I still remember the shock I felt the first time an indignant parent told me that, "My child would never lie to me." The parent had been told about the child's bad behavior and the child had done what we all did, claimed they didn't do it.

My parents kept a myriad of foster children including the three of us they adopted. And one of the things we all had in common is that at some point we all lied. I bet as you are reading this you are recalling lies you told your parents. It is part of the child's self-preservation instinct.

As we got older we knew that my mother always adhered to her rule about the truth and so it became easier to avoid lying. Her rule was, "I'm gonna find out the truth so If you tell me the truth now, it's going to go better for you that if I find out you lied." But despite her offer of mercy for truth, as children we lied.

Even as adults we have something we call a white lie, as if it is somehow better. What other colors do lies come in? A lie is a lie. We lie when we say something that we know to be false.

But the worst lies we tell as adults may be the ones we tell ourselves:
—The person who drinks day after day, and tells himself, "I'm not an alcoholic."
—The persons who are shacked up, as my mother called it, who tell themselves, "It's not a sin," because everybody does it.
—The person who would rather suffer in silence with depression, than admit they need psychiatric help.

It is incredibly difficult to be honest with the world and even with ourselves all the time, 24/7. And yet, as Christians that is what we are called to do. Sometimes, with the world, the best way to avoid a lie is to say nothing. We do not need to comment on everything. It may be absolutely true that your boss is jerk, but saying that might get you fired. So say nothing.

We should consciously choose when we speak and when we speak we really only need to follow what St. Paul tells us at the beginning of today's second reading.

I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness

Actually the America lectionary is not the best translation. What the Greek text says in Romans 9:1 is "Ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν Χριστῷ, οὐ ψεύδομαι, συμμαρτυρούσης μοι τῆς συνειδήσεώς μου ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ,"

I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience co-testifies with me in the Holy Spirit.

It seems that there are two key parts to being truthful. First, we never speak with alone. The verb here means co-testify or co-witness. We must always speak in union with our conscience. Secondly, we must do it all "in the Holy Spirit."

In a world of constant activity, and chatter. We need to take time to sit in the Holy Spirit with our conscience. We traditionally refer to this as an examination of conscience, but it isn't an examination of our conscience. It is an examination of our lives that we do with our conscience. I and my conscience sitting enveloped in the Holy Spirit examine my life and speak the truth to myself. Then and only then can I speak the truth to others.

Think before you speak, speak in the Holy Spirit, speak in union with your conscience.