Tell The Truth

What I find among some friends and acquaintances who are not Catholic is that their view of Catholicism is often a caricature of reality. It is only when they do a little homework that they realize their perception is not reality.

I was reading a recent speech by Fr. Federico Lombardi, former spokesperson for the last three popes, about Pope Emeritus Benedict’s commitment to truth and transparency during the sexual abuse crisis and was struck by these words: “It was necessary to recognize the truth even when it is extremely painful, to go deep into the truth before God and men. To not be worried about the ‘image’ first, or concerned about ‘saving face’. Of course, we must wish that our image be good, but only if it corresponds to a good reality. If not, it is a deception.”

It seems we live in a culture of ‘perception is reality’ these days.  The truth seems to hardly matter when persons are fighting to have their ideas or self-interests rule the day.  It is a great temptation for all of us to form or conform a narrative that fits our bias.  We read and watch news sources that lean the way we lean and readily believe stories that confirm our convictions rather than hearing from a wide variety of sources and investigating the truthfulness of their claims.  We quickly forward emails and share news on our Facebook feed without doing the homework necessary to discover their veracity. We too readily believe politicians when they make unsubstantiated claims, particularly when they are from the party we favor.

When I was in seminary, I raised my hand in class and asked my professor of Christian Ethics, “What is the most important thing we can do when we get out in the parish?”  He said only three words:  “Tell the truth.”

This applies to all of us in any context. We serve no one’s best interest, particularly ourselves, when we don’t seek and tell the truth.  It begins with a strong self-examination, like we do before confession, and it leads to doing our honest best to find out the facts and, as the First Letter of John says, “test the spirits.”

Risky Faith

I love to go see live music, there is nothing like the energy of hearing music being played in real time.  It isn’t studio polished or in perfect time.  Mistakes are made, but they add authenticity and color to the performance even if you don’t notice them – especially if you don’t notice them.

My preference is improvisational live music. I love not knowing what is coming next and whether or not exciting new sounds will be created on the spot.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What I love most is the energy behind the risk-taking that is inherent to improvisational music.  Playing before a paying audience, those musicians take a huge risk and there is no guarantee the audience will appreciate or get what they are doing.  But the reward is high if they nail it.

Life is pretty colorless when you don’t take risks.

In one of Pope Francis’ recent morning homilies, he urged us to be risk-takers. Commenting on the stories of those who took a risk to get to Jesus, he noted that the men who made a hole in the roof to lower their paralytic friend to Jesus took a risk, the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed took a risk, the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment took a risk…the disciples who dropped everything for Jesus took a risk.

Improvisational musicians don’t just get on stage and play random notes without some foundation and preparation, however, and these Biblical examples didn’t put faith in Jesus and what he could do for them without some idea of who Jesus was and what he was about.

Pope Francis has consistently called us to the risk of going out into the peripheries, but it would be foolish to do that without preparing our souls.  But soul-nourishing only to stay in the well-rehearsed, choreographed safe zone will produce a colorless and lifeless Christianity. The Holy Father called it a view from the balcony.  And if that’s the only view we have, then we are missing out on the abundant life Jesus promised us.