Friday, January 12, 2018

We Can Have a Relationship with the Truth

We cannot live without truth. Our minds are engaged in a constant search for the meaning of things and the purpose of our existence in this world. The life of a personal being yearns for truth, and demands the freedom to seek the truth and to adhere to it.

The more we come to know the truth--not an ideological scheme or agenda, but the truth about reality--the more we realize that all truth speaks of the Mystery that is the source and meaning of everything, a Mystery that is Personal in the deepest sense, and who calls us into a living, all-fulfilling relationship.

In presenting us with all the wonderful facets of reality, truth whispers to the heart that it is worthy of adherence and affirmation; it discloses all the goodness and beauty of reality, and thereby points to the One who is Good and Beautiful. This disclosure invites a response of our minds and hearts; it summons us to affirm the truth with conviction and joy, and to continue to seek it.

The work of discovering and deepening this adherence to the truth is personal, but this does not mean that it is a solitary endeavor that each person must carry out in isolation from all others. Quite the contrary. This is the common journey of the human race through all of history. It is the source from which peoples are generated, in which natural ties of kinship develop into the network of human relationships that advances through history and transforms genealogy into heritage and culture.

Human beings are born with the capacity to grow in understanding and freedom, but they cannot do this by themselves. Just as babies and children need to be fed, clothed, and sheltered in order to develop physically, so also they need care and mentoring in the life of the spirit. They need education.

The teacher, or educator, has always held a respected place in human communities. In their responsibility to pass on the heritage of communities and peoples, educators hold a kind of authority, and therefore are entitled to respect and a certain measure of trust in different ways, depending on experience, proven wisdom, office, or recognized scholarship. The educator also is very important in serving as a helper and a guide on the path of truth. 

The genuine educator points to the truth, not to his or her self. The truth, ultimately, is the Infinite Mystery who creates and calls the heart of every person.

There have, of course, been people throughout history who have proposed themselves as "the answer" for others. They are the manipulators and insurrectionists, the violent and abusive figures in history and life. In their "purest" form, they are the cult leaders and totalitarian dictators of history. They betray the relationship of persons which ought to exist between teachers and students, leaders and followers. They turn people into slaves, and they destroy families, communities, cultures, and societies.

But there was one man who was different. Once in history, a man came and said, "I am the Truth." Once in history a man said, "come to me, follow me" and that man was not abusive and manipulative and inhuman.

On the contrary, he transformed those who followed him.

They became, not less human, but a hundred times more profoundly human, and more than that, they themselves became reflections of the Mystery; they became--in a unique way--witnesses to the presence of the Mystery dwelling among us in this man

And their followers have carried the light of the hope of the human race down through the centuries, bearing witness to all the peoples of the world. This presence and promise remains alive in the communion of these followers, even in the midst of all their human frailty and their repeated forgetfulness and betrayal of that unique man in whom the Transcendent Mystery is given and poured out into the very heart of the world.

Jesus Christ is totally unique in history. He and he alone stands before the human person--with integrity, with spectacular greatness and goodness and beauty--and asks, "Who do you say that I am?"

The answer to this question is a continual source of amazement to me. The Mystery that sustains all of reality became a man.

Thus everyone's "personal journey" to a "relationship with the truth" finds its true path and its fulfillment in him. Billions of human beings don't really know him. Still, if they are searching for the truth, they are searching for him. In fact, it is he who is calling their hearts. He has come for each and all. He loves them. There is much that is mysterious about this, but for Christians it should inspire a great desire to make him known more and more to all the world.

The Infinite Mystery reveals himself by becoming man in order to give himself to us. He comes as loving mercy, to be our path and our sustenance and our fulfillment. He comes for the "personal journey" of each one of us, and he draws close to that personal dignity and the special quality, attractions, capabilities and aspirations that distinguish each of our hearts.

We have been created to give ourselves in love. He knows who we are destined to be by means of that gift of love, and he empowers us in his Spirit to achieve this destiny (which is the fulfillment of the humanity that is common to all of us, and also the complete realization of what is unique to each one of us as persons).

Jesus is the Eternal Word of the Father, who gives to all things their attractiveness and beauty and meaning, and then draws all things to himself.

Jesus draws every human person to himself.

The fact that all things find their fulfillment in him does not mean that we should conceive of created things in a reductive way, as having value only insofar as they are "religious stuff." By this I am referring to "religion" inasmuch as we (inevitably) conceive of it when we forget Jesus Christ, as a collection of merely human rules, customs, taboos, invented rituals, theoretical constructs, and power schemes.

Rather, to say that "all things find their fulfillment in him" means that He really is the Mystery: "All things were created through him; all things were created for him" (see Col 1:16).

His "particularity" in history and in our lives is not meant to suffocate us. On the contrary, it is the promise of freedom. It is the guarantee of God's love for each one of us. Jesus Christ is the truth! In him we really will find the fullness of life; indeed we will find "eternal life."

His particularity, his concrete presence, in the life and worship and ministry of the Church brings the Mystery of God close to us and communicates it to us, so that we might live forever as God's children, and so that we might see the vividness of God's mercy and goodness in every aspect of this earthly life, in its joys and hopes and sufferings.