Si veritatem dico vobis, quare non creditis mihi? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?
The truth is a queen who has her eternal throne in heaven, the seat of her sovereignty in the bosom of God. Nothing is nobler than truth because everything comes under its governance. It should reign over the reason which is intended to govern all things. Nothing is stronger and nothing is more powerful than the truth, especially the truth of the Gospel which has been established on facts, and which is proposed by faith, in our present condition, and which openly appears uncovered in heaven. Even the devils believe in it, as Saint James says, and not only do they believe, but they also tremble as the truth stands out to them in its whole dramatic and terrible dimension. It is certainly not the least of the pains of the devils and damned souls to realize that the truth that was offered to them, and which could have freed them, now enchains them, keeping them captive in infernal and eternal torment. The truth is known and respected in heaven, and there it is loved. But the truth is also known and respected in hell – respected, or at least observed – although it is hated there. Yes, the truth is known and observed in heaven and in hell, but between heaven and hell, here on earth is the only place where truth is despised. In heaven and in hell, the truth cannot leave you indifferent: you love it or you hate it with your whole heart and your whole mind. Here, on earth, you may find such sentiments toward the truth, but you also find a lot of indifference and a great lack of concern for it. Very often, it simply leaves men with a great coldness. We have already given the reasons for this in the beginning of this Lenten season’s sermons.
Let us continue our reflection with the help of Bossuet, and let us try to take a closer look at the reasons that push men to despise or to hate the truth. First, we say with Saint Thomas that “truth in general cannot be the object of hatred.” You certainly remember, dear brethren, that good, truth, and being are the same in reality. They just differ as considered by reason. So, “truth in general cannot be the object of hatred because disagreement is the cause of hatred, and agreement is the cause of love, while being and truth are common to all things. But nothing hinders some particular being or some particular truth from being an object of hatred, in so far as it is considered as hurtful and repugnant, since hurtfulness and repugnance are not incompatible with the notion of being and truth, as they are with the notion of good.” (Ia IIae Q 29 Art 5)
Bossuet develops the thought of Saint Thomas, and he says that men can hate the truth in three different ways, in three different subjects, wherein truth dwells, when truth is considered as it is in God, as it appears in men, or as we feel it in ourselves. In each case, truth hurts the sinful man. In God, the immutable laws of truth condemn man. In man, who is the present witness of the laws of truth, they correct him. Within himself, in the secret of his conscience, the laws of truth trouble and make him worry. In each case they displease the sinful man. The pride of his mind does not accept that truth condemns him. The obstinacy of the sinner prevents him from being corrected. The blind love for his vices cannot permit him consent to be bothered. Therefore the sinner hates truth, or at least he pretends to ignore it, by enclosing himself in a state of indifference towards it.
The Gospel of Saint John that we have been reading at Mass for the last few days, and which we continue to read during the Passion time, is extremely affirmative in this regard, as it shows us the increasing antinomy between the Jews and Jesus, and the indifference of the Gentiles. Jesus gives testimony to the truths that He saw in the bosom of His Father, and the Father gives testimony to Jesus. These truths condemn those who do not receive them. Furthermore, it is on behalf of these truths that Jesus is put to death.
“Jesus corrects their vices, and while His words convince them, their hatred of truth makes them hate the One who announces it,” Bossuet says. “They get angrier at Him; they call Him a Samaritan and a demonic person. They take stones to throw at Him. Yet, He presses them more and brings to the depth of their hearts the light of truth: ‘Yet a little while, the light is among you.’ (John 12:35) But they hate the adorable truth so much that they extinguish the feeble ray of light that was still in them. They look for the dark night that covers their bad works.” In a last attempt, as the ultimate resort, He asks them: “If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46)
The sinners hate the law of God, even when they pretend to follow it. It is a religious tribunal that condemns Jesus to death; a tribunal of men who pride themselves of being the faithful observers of the law. Yes, Saint Paul is absolutely right when he says that the letter kills, but it does not only kill metaphorically; it also kills literally. It kills first the One who gives it to men. The sinners hate the law of God and the truth. And they know that it is precisely this truth that condemns them. “Miserable men,” Saint Augustine says, “who, because wishing to be wicked, deny that to be the truth whereby the wicked are condemned.”
Therefore, they try to abolish the law and to kill the legislator. The sinners are revolutionaries by nature. They organize themselves in impious assemblies in order to free themselves from God. They establish a structured system that denies the truth and, when it is necessary, they eliminate the heralds and the heroes of the truth. When sin is not simply tolerated, but rather encouraged, in a society, it can only generate a secular or even an atheist environment where people may be still free to give themselves a god, provided that it is a god who does not come to recall to them that they have duties and obligations to him, or toward the truth.
We said in the beginning of Lent that faith has two kinds of enemies: ignorance and corruption. We showed how a life of sins leads a soul astray from God. What was said about individuals is true for societies, too. We have been witnessing the apostasy of the old Christian nations for the past two centuries, in spite of the solemn and repeated warnings from the Popes since the Revolution. Today, human rights have replaced the commandments of God, even sometimes in the minds and the hearts of many members of the clergy. After all, it was not said that the clergy would be immunized against the errors of our time, which are the errors of any time. It is even the clergy that often leads the faithful toward rebellion, as it was the clergy that condemned Jesus to death. But once again, we do not have to be surprised. It was announced by Jesus that wolves would come to scatter and cast the sheep.
Now, dear brethren, we could go on and on about this subject. It can be very comforting for some Catholics who are still faithful in these times of apostasy to contemplate the pathetic state of our society and even of our Church, to pronounce solemn anathemas, to condemn everything and everyone that is not entirely Catholic, and to think that, after all, they are not so bad since they are faithful to the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ. Well, it is precisely to these faithful that I am speaking now, as I do not see among our congregation many atheists or modernists.
Certainly, you have not rejected Christ, and you receive the truth of His speech. But let me ask you again the same question I asked last week. Have you received the entire truth of the Gospel? You would say that you do not hate the truth, but we have just said that the truth in general cannot be the object of hatred. Are you sure that there is no particular truth that you don’t like? Have you taken great care, since the beginning of Lent, to examine your conscience in detail? You think that you hear the truth, and you do not want to be counted among the enemies of Christ who crucifies Him. But where were the friends of Jesus during His Passion? You claim to be a friend of Jesus, but are you better than all his friends who abandoned Him, who ran away when He was arrested, judged, and crucified?
When Jesus speaks about the truth, He does not speak only to the Jews who condemn Him. He also intends to teach His disciples to love and to respect His holy truth, so that when they contemplate it in their Judge, they can be corrected; when they hear it from others, they can receive it with humility; when they listen to it in their conscience, they can be enlightened, changed, and converted by it. And conversion is precisely a permanent process which is never achieved in this life, but which requires a deep, serious, and ongoing investigation of your conscience.
Let us bring some light on one point. The Fifth Commandment forbids us to kill. You think that you have not broken this Commandment since you have never killed anybody. This is your conclusion after your own reflection, based upon your own interpretation of the law. But are you in the truth? Being in the truth is not the same thing as thinking you are in the truth! Saint John says that whosoever hates his brother is a murderer.
Hatred pushes men to destroy what they hate, what they have already destroyed in their heart, and, therefore, when the object of hatred is a person, it generates a secret intention to murder. You can recognize that you hate someone when his presence hurts your feelings, when you have a kind of repulsion for anything that comes from him, when you consider that meeting him is something grievous, when you take any opportunity to speak behind his back to denigrate him, to lower him, to mock him. Now, if you include all these elements in your examination of conscience, are you still certain that you have not broken the Fifth Commandment? Are you still certain that you are truly a friend of Jesus who says as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me? And then, are you still certain that you are not like the Jews who condemned Jesus to death? If you hate your neighbor, you are guilty of murder. And if you murder your neighbor, you murder Christ Himself. You do not hate the whole truth since you cannot, but you still hate a particular truth that bothers you, hurts your feeling, or displeases you. And you try to forget this, and to hide this sin in a dark corner of your conscience, comforting yourself in the observance of the other commandments, forgetting that, in fact, you have broken all of them, according to Saint James: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
Again, dear brethren, it is the whole truth that we have to hear and to accept, and not only the particular truths that are more convenient to us. The truth will be our judge, and there will be no way to escape this. Please God that we may tremble more often in front of the truth, instead of hiding ourselves behind it, or using it for our own convenience and satisfaction.