What is truth?


Palm Sunday Mass this year at my parish had it all going on.  Technical glitches so that you could only hear two of the three Passion readers. To my left, a duo of five year olds using their palm fronds to sword fight.  To my right, a wailing infant. Me in the middle improvising the congregational responses within the Gospel as I had neglected to pick up the worship aid once I realized that Mass had started at 10:15, not 10:30. Oh, and did I mention that this was all taking place outside?  My parish has continued to have one outdoor Mass each week for young families until the littlest among us can be vaccinated against Covid.  So there was wind making it hard to turn the pages of the worship aids (of those who had them) and birds and trucks driving by.

“What is truth?” asks Pilate each year on Good Friday.  This was true.  These young families doing their best to continue to gather for the liturgy of the Church with not only children and diaper bags but lawn chairs in tow.  The parish staff continuing to set up a tent and cantankerous portable sound system each week to meet them where they are at.  It is not your usual definition of truth, but a dimension of the topic that I think is frequently neglected when we try to answer Pilate’s question.  Truth requires seeking to know what is real and good.  It requires speaking honestly even when it is uncomfortable to do so.  But it also requires fidelity—being true—to each other and to what matters, not just in glorious, noble ways but in simply continuing to show up for one another. 

As Dostoevsky notes in The Brothers Karamazov, “Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all.  Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on stage. But love in action is labor and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science.”  It is that last line that really gets me.  What is Dostoevsky saying there?  I’m not certain, but it strikes me that in some way that is what each Holy Week invites us to reflect upon—the “full science” of active love.  We are given a vast cast of characters with Christ at the center all of whom are true or not true to each other and what matters in myriad ways.

This particular Holy Week, I was given to reflect upon the relationship between Judas and Jesus.  (Readings for April 13) Eeeek.  Not an easy relationship to understand.  But if we are to consider the “full science” of what it means to be true, we certainly can’t turn away from that part of the Passion story.  I invite you to sit in it with me!

I also would like to invite you to get a couple copies of Let’s Talk About Truth at the ridiculously low price of $5/copy—available only this week through Ave Maria Press.  In this book I try to answer Pilate’s question by looking at all the different dimensions of truth, including the dimension of fidelity.  As we continue to watch war ravage Ukraine, aware of all the ways Putin’s government is hiding the news of what goes on from its own people….  As we continue to watch the January 6th investigation unfold and look at how our own country has been scarred by misinformation… As we try in myriad ways to be faithful to one another even in the midst of polarization on so many fronts… perhaps this could be the book that you are seeking both for yourself and to gift your favorite preacher or teacher with.  This price is available only through April 21.

Wishing you a most blessed and true Holy Week!