Be Bold and Tell the Truth — It Will Set You (and Others) Free
Are we afraid of alienating people so much that we won’t stick up for what’s right and help set people free?
One of my prayer practices is to cycle through the Gospels by reading one chapter each day. Several priests have recommended this discipline in order to keep in regular contact with the words of Jesus.
Over time, I’ve noticed that this type of daily Gospel reading makes one more aware of not only what our Lord would do or say but how Jesus Christ would say something particularly in response to criticism or something said that is untrue. Without such daily contact with the precise words of Christ, are we not left instead with deciding to follow our culture and either verbally blast people in a rebuttal or politely make a joke and change the subject? I think our Lord shows us that there is a third way which involves trusting the Father — and most importantly, not denying God the Father.
Take for example John 8:12-14:
Again Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life.’ The Pharisees then said to him, ‘You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
Christ speaks the bottom line fairly but firmly. I recall the late Father Benedict Groeschel advising that people never “beat around the bush” when defending chastity. I agree that this is an area where giving lengthy explanations or simply smiling does not get a significant point across but requires Christ’s more direct response of just stating the truth.
I was recently put on the spot by a remark made by a young neighbor boy whose parents had declared him to be a girl when he was 5 years of age. While dog-walking, young Teddy in his pink dress commented to me that no one knows the gender of dogs since dogs cannot talk. I give the credit to the Holy Spirit from daily Gospel reading when at that moment I kindly turned to Teddy and said even in front of his mother, “Teddy, I know that my dog Honey is a girl because I have had to clean her.”
Although Teddy queried further, “But she can’t talk,” I was adamant, “Teddy, I have cleaned Honey and bathed her. She is a girl.” What did that child and his mother need most but to hear the truth? And yet, as I prepared to move from my home, it was this family of neighbors who said they would miss me the most.
No doubt the Lord had prepared for such a conversation with the pizza parties I had celebrated with this family in my backyard during lockdown. Moreover, our dialogue was also preceded by there being a rosary hanging from the dashboard of my car out in the community parking lot and a picture of the Divine Mercy Jesus on my front storm door throughout 2020. Ultimately, as difficult as it was to take, the Truth was proclaimed more fully, gradually over time.
Are we afraid of alienating people so much that we won’t stick up for what’s right and really try to help another person, really set him or her free? Are we not more enslaved by just smiling and “letting it go?” Like Christ, I want to love the Father enough to speak up and love my fellow men enough to remain calm and respectful. It is this daily awareness of Christ’s words in the Gospels that can change me.
Having a relationship with the Almighty is the key. I also hope to emulate Christ’s love of his Father and awareness of his Father’s presence in John 8:28-30:
So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him. As he spoke thus, many believed in him.
If my words can contribute to someone’s belief in Jesus as Lord, does it matter whether I’m liked or not or whether people agree with me? There is a joy and a peace in walking with God the Father and trying to please him.
As I moved from my neighborhood, it was one ex-Catholic who had sincerely begged me to stay in touch no matter how many times I had been the point of her jokes or criticism throughout the years. She longs to have the courage to return to Mass as does another lax Catholic neighbor who thanked me for reminding her to get the Anointing of the Sick for her 70-year-old husband, severely ill in the hospital. I credit inspiration from the Holy Spirit to not only try and be a good example to these neighbors, but also to listening to His encouragement to talk to them directly about the Catholic faith even when criticized as Christ was.
I am also reminded of one neighborhood teenager whom I had watched grow up through several stages of rebellion. Baptized as a baby, she never had the chance to embrace her Catholic faith, what with her parents’ divorce compounded by differing religions. And yet, her attraction to Christ could still be mildly expressed. Instead of criticizing me for my vastly different lifestyle, she once remarked that her dog admired me as he barked when I passed by her mother’s house. This compliment, after all the words of discipline I had imparted to her and her brother when they regularly disregarded my property in their childhood games — so much so that I considered moving from my home after owning it for only a couple years! These neighborhood children needed a spiritual mother.
And so Christ tells us the power of his words in John 8:31-32:
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
Let’s know the words of the Gospels well and continue discussing them freely especially when so many outside the Church can hardly wait to hear us talk about them openly just in our own backyards!