Sunday, August 23, 2015

truth matters

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our Gospel reading today, our Lord might seem to be somewhat inflexible, a man not open to the idea of compromise. He has told his listeners that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they are to have life in them. Some present complain that this is a hard teaching. Does Jesus try to soften it for them? He does not. Instead, he tells them his words are spirit and life. Many begin to leave. Does Jesus then call them back and try to soften his teaching?

No, he doesn't. Instead he turns to the 12 Apostles and asks them if any of them would like to leave as well. Accept what I say or go, is his clear message. And he will not change his teaching in order to keep those who hear him happy. The truth is the truth and it can not be changed just because hearing it makes some, or many, or even most unhappy to hear it. There is good reason for this. Not telling people the hard unvarnished truth, and instead only saying to them what they want to hear, can have disastrous consequences.

Imagine, for example, a doctor who didn't like to give his patients bad news. First into his office is a woman in her early forties. Doctor she says, I just got married. My husband and I hope to have children, but it's a very busy time at work for me, and we have a lot of bills after the wedding. Do you think it would be ok to wait a few years. No worries, says the doctor. Women are starting families later these days; and I believe the longer you wait, the more likely you are to conceive. So delay all you want. And the woman leaves the office delighted. 

Next in comes an older man, wheezing and coughing. He has a sixty cigarette a day habit and the first thing he says to the doctor is that he knows he needs to quit but he has tried before and found it very hard. Well, have I got good news for you, says the doctor. It turns out the tobacco companies have been right all along; there is no proof that cigarettes causes lung-cancer, or heart disease, or emphysema, or anything else. In fact, because they help you relax and deal with stress, they're really quite good for you. Actually, you might want to think about smoking a few more. And still coughing and wheezing, but smiling now, the man leaves.

Finally, a man comes in looking for his test results. He's afraid; he's sure he has cancer. In fact, he does have cancer. But the doctor just gives him a big smile and says not to worry, he's grand – the tests came back all clear. Oh, thank you says the man – I feel so relieved. And he leaves the office a happy man. And the doctor nods and smiles to himself thinking that he has done good work that day as he has made so many people happy.

I do not think that any of us would like to be the patient of such a doctor, even if he did manage to keep us happy for a brief while by telling us what we want to hear. And this is why Jesus insists on telling his followers the truth, even when they do not wish to hear it. For he is the physician of souls, the one who has come to make sinners well from the sin that afflicts them. And if the truth he tells causes some to run from him, better that they leave; for there is no salvation in staying to believe in a lie – quite the opposite, for did not our Lord tell us that lies are of Satan, who is the father of lies? Telling people what they want to hear rather than the truth, even if they find it painful, is of the devil then, not of God – and how could Christ do the work of the one whose power he had come to set man free from?

No, with Christ it is the truth, always … and so it must be with us. We must not be afraid to hear the hard truths, and live out the hard teachings. And we must not be afraid to share them with others. Jesus was not afraid to do so, even though it cost him many followers; we must do likewise, even if it will cost us friends.

For consider St Peter's words when Jesus asked the apostles if they, like those who left because the truth was too much for them, wished also to go – he replied 'Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.' What kind of friends would we be to them if we refused to share those words of truth with them, the truth that can save their souls? Indeed, is not refusing to share the truth with others the same as leading them astray, as causing them to stumble? And what was it our Lord said of those who lead others astray? It was that it were better that a millstone be tied around their neck and they be cast into the sea. So by sharing God's truth with others not only may you save the souls of those others – you may in fact save your own.

I pray that God will grant his grace to all present today to hear his truth, live it out in their lives, and share that truth with others always. Amen

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