To Tell the Truth
By Father Pete Iorio
Maybe you have had a situation like this in the family. Mom gets and finds a broken lamp on the floor. She does not need to ask how. She knows her children have been playing in the house in ways forbidden to them. More than likely, mom also knows the culprit before she evens starts her detective work.
Mom approaches the most likely suspect –– and asks, “How did the lamp get broken?” First response is usually the claim of ignorance, “I don’t know.” Mom knows better and persists, “Who did it? Did you?” The second response tries to deflect the blame, “No, Jimmy (the little brother) did it!” Mom’s third interrogative requires a new tactic, “Are you telling me the truth?” Knowing he is not, the third defense is sure: “He made me!”
Young people, I especially encourage you to build your lives on a foundation of truth. It will serve you well as you grow into adulthood. Remember that the truth is much more valuable than a lamp. Truth telling is important for all relationships.
In the first reading from the book of Genesis, we see that no one accepts blame for evil. The man blames the woman, and the woman blames the serpent. It is important to note that the serpent is not the devil. The book of Genesis tells us that “the serpent is the most cunning of all the animals that God created.”
So the serpent represents the Tempter. We can think about the serpent today as money, power, riches, greed, oppression and ignorance or indifference of the needs of our brothers and sisters. And as in the history of the Fall, today no one accepts blame for evil. WE think of all the excuses given by those who committed crimes. They say that it is because of poverty, abuse suffered from childhood, a mental state, pressures from a job, the injustice of the court system. But the reality is that each one of us is culpable for the evil that we do. God has given us the freedom to choose, and many times, we choose evil.
In the Gospel, we encounter the theme of evil as well. There are people wanting to hear Jesus that they follow him to his house and don’t let him eat. But there is another group, scribes, masters of the law, who are bothered by his teaching and cures and they have arrived from Jerusalem to confront him. This second group cannot or does not want to hear that Jesus is truly acting with the power of God. This group only believes that they alone are capable of interpreting the will of God. Jesus was not following their way. Jesus preached compassion and inclusion and put himself in contact with those that the masters of the law considered sinners. So they bullied him.
The scribes blaspheme him, charging that he is possessed by Beelzebul. You know, in cases like this, the basic problem is always the fearful ego. Ego-addicts know that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you want to protect the ego and its prerogatives, you must oppress and demoralize those around you.
There is a very unsubtle version of this method: you attack, put down, insult, and undermine those around you. This is the method of the bully. But the religious version is much subtler and thus more insidious and dangerous. It takes the Law itself—especially the moral law—and uses it to accuse and oppress. “I know what’s right and wrong; I know what the Church expects of us; and I know that you are not living up to it.”
And so I accuse you; I gossip about you; I remind you of your inadequacy. Mind you, this is not to condemn the legitimate exercise of fraternal correction or the office of preaching and teaching. But it’s a reminder to not be sucked into the slavery of ego addiction. We must stay alert to this and avoid it at all costs.
In that time, in the mentality of the scribes, Satan takes possession of individuals: the sick, sinners, deaf, lepers and many more. They want to avoid contact with Satan so they avoid contact with such persons. But Jesus teaches that God is more powerful that Satan. Jesus seeks out such persons to cure them and reintegrate them into the human community. Jesus sees them as children of a compassionate and merciful God. He knows that God loves them and extends his power to include them once more in the family of God.
We have a gift in the sacrament of reconciliation. The priest – in the person of Jesus Christ – lovingly hears the honest truth about a person’s sins.
Christ never fails to offer us love and mercy, which is forgiveness. This restores us to right relationship with God and also members of His Body, the Church.