The Truth about Truth

– 34th Week in Ordinary Time –

“my words will never pass away” [Luke 21:33]

We live in an age of ‘your’ truth and my ‘truth’. If I tell someone that I’m Catholic, a common response is, ‘I’m not religious, but I’m glad that works for you’. Many think that it’s possible to choose your own truth in the same way that you might choose your preferred vehicle or your favourite meal. This fails to understand the nature of truth – as though all truth were subjective. There are some situations where the truth is subjective and changeable. If I ask you if prawns taste good, the answer is subjective. You might say yes, others might say no. The truth is up to you. But if I ask you whether or not prawns live on land or sea, the truth is not up to you. If you said they are land animals, you would be wrong, no matter how passionately you believed it. That is because the question is objective rather than subjective. 

It is here that we can begin to see the problem with the notion that religion is a personal preference and merely subjective. Jesus makes very clear and bold statements about himself. He says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. He says, ‘no one comes to the father except through me’ (John 14:6). These statements are not subjective, they are objective. That is to say, they’re either true or false, and our opinion or personal preference does not impact their truthfulness. This leads anyone who comes across Jesus’ words to a decision point. Jesus is either the way the truth and the life, or else he is a bit crazy and a liar. Someone who tells lies cannot be described as ‘a good moral teacher.’ I am Catholic not because it suits me, or because it is my preference amongst other options, but because I believe the Catholic faith to be true. I cannot change this reality, it is not my opinion. I can only respond to it, which means accepting that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, and following him. In today’s gospel we are reminded that Jesus’ words will never pass away. 

In a world of uncertainty, anxiety and relative truth, it is a great assurance to give my life to the one who is the truth and whose words will never pass away.

by Peter Pellicaan

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