The Church is Jesus Christ and He is the Truth
Wednesday September 19, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier
Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Timothy 3:14-16) Gospel (St. Luke 7:31-35)
In this statement by Our Lord at the end of the Gospel reading today: "God's wisdom is vindicated by all who accept it," it is a matter that God is Truth. God is Truth Himself, and anything that is true is of God. Anything which is not, obviously, is not of God because only what is true can be of God. When we look at the Scriptures, we recognize that they are truth. They are the inspired Word of God, and this is something that all Christian people believe.
Yet, when you point out in the inspired Word of God what we heard in the first reading today, they do not want to accept it because God's wisdom is human foolishness. In the first reading, Saint Paul says to Timothy: "You will know what kind of conduct befits a member of God's household, the church of the living God, the pillar and the bulwark of truth." What the Church teaches is God's truth, and there is no compromise in the truth: It is absolute, it is clear. Every single teaching of the Church is the truth, and the fullness of the truth subsists in the Catholic Church, as the Second Vatican Council teaches us.
That is something that people do not like to hear. We like, in our society, to be the arbiters of truth. In that case, we are like the people Jesus talks about when he says we are like the children squatting in the square, calling to their playmates: "We piped you a dirge, but you did not wail; we sang you a song but you did not dance." We want to pick and choose. What the Church teaches, sometimes, we do not always like so we say, "No, I do not believe that."
The amazing thing is that, for the people who claim to believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, when you point this truth out they ignore it. When you point out other truths that are very clear in Scripture they ignore that, too. They say, "No, the Scripture is the pillar and the bulwark of truth." But when you point it out in Scripture, then they do not want it anyway. Like the children sitting in the square, they do not want to dance and they do not want to wail - they want to be their own arbiter of truth. They do not want somebody else telling them what is true.
Fortunately, for us (unfortunately, for them), God is the truth. God is the One who has determined what is true and what is not. He has given us His Church (who gave us the Scriptures, by the way), and the Church was around for 400 years before the New Testament was finally set down in a codified form. The Church preceded the Scriptures; the Scriptures came from the Church, not the other way around. The only reason why we can believe that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God is because the Church, which is the pillar and the bulwark of truth, has told us that they are the inspired Word of God.
We need only to look to the Church. If we want to know where God's wisdom is, if we want to know the fullness of truth - and God is the truth - then all we need to do is look at His Church because the Church is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is the truth. What the Church is going to teach is truth.
Now, we need always to keep clear the distinction between what the members of the Church might do and what the Church teaches. Sometimes, individuals in the Church do not live the truth the way that they ought, we may not preach the truth the way that we ought; sometimes, our example may even be deplorable and people look at that and say, "See what these Catholics do? Obviously that is not the truth!" If we sin, that is not what the Church teaches. But if we keep that distinction clear, then we believe what the Church teaches and we look beyond the individual who may be acting in an unseemly manner; instead, we look to the objective teachings of the Church and we say, "There is the truth." That is the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God says, "Look beyond the individuals and look at the Lord."
The Lord founded one Church (as is made clear in Matthew 16), and He founded it on Peter. The ancient saying is: Ubi Petrus est, ubi Ecclesia est - "Where Peter is, there is the Church." Plain and Simple. We do not need to get fancy; we do not need all kinds of complex arguments. The Church is the pillar and the bulwark of truth. If we want to know the truth, that is as far as we need to look. And we need to accept that truth, even the parts that may be difficult; even the parts that, on the surface level, do not make sense to us. When we dig down deeper, we will find where it is rooted and then it makes perfect sense.
The fullness of the truth subsists in the Catholic Church and only in the Catholic Church. While most people do not want to believe that, it does not matter; that is the subjective element. The objective element is what we need to look at, and then, subjectively, put our faith in that and trust - because the wisdom of God will be vindicated by those who accept it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.