Want the Truth? Live the Truth!
Monday December 15, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a) Gospel (St. Matthew 21:23-27)
When we hear this first reading from the Book of Numbers about Balaam looking out over Israel encamped tribe by tribe, and we hear the blessing that is given that their tents are goodly, that their gardens be planted by the stream, and that they will have a king who will rise higher and his royalty will be exalted, and also about the fact that one day there will be a star that will advance from Jacob and a staff that will arise in Israel, all these, of course, are prophecies regarding the coming of Christ. One would think that these things are very positive, but we have to put it in perspective and remember that Balaam was hired by the enemy king to curse Israel. When he climbed up the mountain to look out over the encampment so that the enemy would be able to go into battle against Israel and defeat them because of the curse that Balaam put upon them, God would not allow that. Instead, God required that Balaam would bless Israel.
Now the thing in all of this is that Balaam was looking for money. He took a rather hefty sum of money in order to put this curse upon Israel. He had actually done this several times because each time he would wind up blessing Israel and the enemy king would give him more money so that he would go back and curse Israel. He was not seeking the Will of God. So when he starts his prophecies by talking about the utterance of one whose eye is true, who hears what God says, who sees what God sees, and so on, that really was not his interest. His interest was himself. His interest was making money.
We see the exact same thing with the scribes and Pharisees when they come to Jesus. Their interest was not in the truth. Their interest was in politics; their interest was in themselves, ultimately, and not in God. And so Jesus poses the question, “Where was John’s baptism from?” and they tell Him that they do not know. They refuse to answer His question because they know the politics of the situation would be such that there was no way they could give the right answer without indicting themselves. So they play the political game and say that they just simply do not know, because they were not interested in the truth. They were interested only in themselves.
This is something that, when it comes to human nature, we know is a rather prevalent problem, and it is something that each one of us is going to be tempted to do, if not in fact suffer from, in our own lives. How often we are willing to compromise the truth for some kind of personal gain. How often we are willing to take money or position or whatever it is at the cost of what is really right, proper, and true. We can learn from these situations because when you look at the fact that the Lord was willing to tell these people the truth provided that they themselves were willing to acknowledge the truth, then when they would not acknowledge the truth, He would not tell them the truth either. It is not that He told them a lie; He just simply would not tell them anything at all.
Well, if that is the pattern then we have to realize that, in our own lives, unless we are living according to the truth, the truth is not going to be in us; the Lord is not going to give it to us. Remember His own statement: “Do not throw your pearls before swine. Do not throw what is holy to the dogs.” If we are not going to live according to the way of Jesus Christ then He is not going to place His truth into our hearts and into our minds. Why would He? We have already demonstrated that we do not want the truth. We want it if it is for personal gain – but we do not want the truth because it is true. We want it if it is going to gain something for ourselves, if it is going to be helpful for some kind of political gain of our own. But that is not what the truth is about, and the Lord is not going to lower Himself to those kinds of standards. So we have to be about seeking the truth simply for the truth’s sake because, remember, the truth is Jesus Christ. If we are not willing to acknowledge the truth then we are not willing to acknowledge Christ, at least in that aspect. And then we have to remember again the words of Our Lord: “If you do not acknowledge Me before men, I will not acknowledge you before My heavenly Father.” If we want to water down the truth, if we want to play these wimpy games of trying to suggest that somehow we can get around the truth politically and that it really does not involve us or however we want to do it, what we are really doing is denying Christ because we are denying the truth.
And so we see that what would initially appear to be to our own benefit because of our attachment to human affection (or human respect, whatever you want to call it) is ultimately only going to redound to our own condemnation. So we need to look very seriously at that issue and ask ourselves, first of all, “Do I live according to the truth? Do I speak the truth? Do I even want the truth? How much is this truth worth to me (not for personal gain, but just objectively)? How much does the truth really mean to me?” And remember always: The truth is a Person; the truth is God; the truth is Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.