We Must Uphold the Truth
Wednesday June 4, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 20:28-38) Gospel (St. John 17:11b-19)
When we look at the readings today, we hear Our Lord praying to His heavenly Father that all of His disciples would be one just as He is one with the Father and the Father is one with Him, so that we all too would be one in them. And then He goes on to talk about how He protected His disciples with the name that God has given Him and He says that He guarded them and none was lost except the son of destruction so that the Scriptures could be fulfilled. Now we hear Saint Paul talking to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus. “Presbyter” is the word from which we get the word priest. He says to them that God has made them overseers, which is actually the word for bishop, and in that way they are to guard the flock. They have had the flock entrusted to them and they are to protect them. Just as we see in the Gospel that Judas, who came from their own number, was the one who turned against the Lord, so too Saint Paul warns the people of Ephesus that there are going to be savage wolves that will come among them – and even some from among their own number – who are going to try to pervert the truth and lead the people astray. Then we look down a little further in the Gospel reading and what do we hear Our Lord saying? He says, “I consecrate them in truth,” and then says, “Your word is truth.” Then He prays and says that He has sent them into the world, just as God the Father had sent Our Lord into the world, and then tells us that He consecrates Himself for our sake so that we in turn will be consecrated in truth.
We see a couple of things here for ourselves that we need to recognize. God has given us His word, and as Jesus says, the world has hated them for it. So we know that we are consecrated to Christ, we are consecrated to truth –He is the truth and the word that He speaks is truth – and the world hates the truth. Again, we recognize that we are set apart, which is what the word “consecrate” means. We are set apart from the world. The world is not going to appreciate us and it is not going to appreciate what we stand for, so we are not going to be popular with the world. But the Lord, in consecrating us, sets Himself aside and lifts Himself up from the earth to draw all people to Himself, and then prays that we too would be consecrated in truth. If we are going to uphold the truth, we are going to pay for it. We are going to be set aside, lifted up, crucified. All of this is going to happen to us if we are going to truly live the truth.
At the same time, as Saint Paul makes very clear to the Ephesians and Our Lord is making clear in the Gospel, it is for those especially who have been entrusted with the care of the flock to make sure that they teach the truth, that they guard the flock in the truth. But the warning is there in both that the savage wolves that are going to come among them are from their own number. So we look in the Church today and we see that Jesus has Judases all over the place, just as He did from His own twelve, just as Saint Paul warned the Ephesians, just as we see in Saint John’s First Letter when he tells us that “many such antichrists have appeared and they came from our own number”. Should we be surprised when we look around and we see that there are priests and bishops not upholding the truth? It is their job to do so. But they have failed in that way.
But that does not mean that we do not have to uphold the truth just because some among us do not. Saint Paul said that they are going to come along specifically to draw the sheep away. So we need to know who our shepherd is. We have an obligation to live the truth and to preach the truth because we are consecrated in truth. But even if there are some who have that same obligation and that same consecration and do not live it, that does not allow any of us to say, “Well, look, they’re not doing it – why should I? If they can do this and they can be popular in the world – they don’t have to live the truth, they don’t have to preach the truth – why should I? After all, it’s easier to let it be watered down. You can have more fun in this world if you do it this other way. Why shouldn’t I be just like everyone else?” We cannot be just like everyone else because we are consecrated to truth and Jesus Christ is the truth and we are consecrated to Jesus Christ. One day we will all stand before Jesus Christ and we will have to answer to what we did with the truth to which we were consecrated. That is why we cannot water this down. That is why we cannot be just like everyone else.
He has given us His word and the world hates it. So we have our choice. Are we going to be consecrated and crucified with Christ? Or are we going to become one of the savage wolves who waters down the truth to make it more palatable to the worldly? Those are the only two options we have, and I think it is pretty clear. When we look at the twelve disciples, eleven of them upheld the truth and one watered it down. When we look at the people that Saint Paul speaks of and Saint John speaks of, he tells us that this is the spirit of the antichrist. So that is the choice we have. It is Christ or it is antichrist. It is the truth or it is falsehood. It is to be consecrated or it is to be desecrated. The choice is entirely ours. The Lord has made His choice and He has chosen us. He has consecrated us to Himself and He has asked us that we would uphold the truth of His word that He has put into our hearts. That is what He did and that is what He asks of us, that we would love Him, that we would be consecrated to Him, and that we would live the truth to Whom and in Whom we have been consecrated.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.