Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the January 15, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
No one likes to be called a liar. For some, the very accusation is an invitation to put up the dukes. Even if they actually have been twisting words or leading a falsified life-style, few people have the moral fortitude to own up and admit their guilt. It is easier to live the pretense of being a paragon of virtue. It’s hard to admit that we lie, because doing so is a confession of moral weakness and reflects a lack in our personal character.
Lying, obviously, must be seen in contrast to telling the truth. As Christians, we know that we are called to live in the truth of God’s love made known to us in the Incarnation of the Word who is Jesus – the reality we have just celebrated in the great Christmas Feast. Truth is unhiddenness – seeing things as they really are, without prejudice and the filter of our own opinions and defenses.
It is not without wisdom that, as the Church has made the transition from the Christmas Season into Ordinary Time, it has selected readings from the letters in New Testament which echo the Holy Season just past. These letters rejoice in the Truth which humanity has seen, touched and experienced in Jesus of Nazareth, the One born of Mary – the fullness of God’s truth. God has revealed a unique love in Jesus which totally transforms the world and gives it genuine life. That truth is radically simple but extremely powerful: God has first loved us, calling all humankind into a community of shared love which is characterized by profound respect for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ as well as by self-sacrificing service to the needs of others.
Because God has so loved us, our vocation, in turn, is to respond to God through our love for one another. The truth is: we are called and we are called to be lovers. In sum, through the incarnate Word, Jesus, God seeks to form us into a community of lovers who live the truth. We cannot be oblivious, however, to the reality of the human condition; we know that all those who claim to be followers of Christ do not live as a community of lovers. The slippage that is reflected in explicit sins of back-biting, gossip, unkindness, sexual unfaithfulness and other abuses of the dignity of the sons and daughters of God – all those kinds of things that threaten the fabric and witness of the Christian community. None of these things has a proper place in a community of lovers because they do not give life. They destroy it and fragment the community.
In his letters which have found their way into the New Testament canon, St. John calls people who engage in such activities “liars.” Their lives do not give witness to a Christian identity established in Baptism as members of Christ’s community of lovers. Their lives do not reflect the light of God’s love which shines ever so brilliantly in the person of Jesus and now through his followers. They do not live by his light, but by the diminishing “light” of their own choosing. They are headed toward darkness as their own deeds of darkness testify. St. John assures us, however, that when we humbly and honestly recognize the lie which our sins reflect, we have the forgiveness of God in Christ.
In his letters, St. John’s use of the word “liar” is reserved most poignantly for those who boldly claim to know God but whose lives do not show evidence of following his commandments. These are they who by their baptismal status claim membership in the Church of Christ, his community of lovers, but whose lives are a living contradiction. The biggest lie is that of pretense, acting as if behavior and attitudes are not really all that important to Christian living – always falling back on the presumption that God’s love conquers all and that sin and selfishness are not a serious reality which needs to be addressed.
The Christmas story which the Christian world so beautifully celebrated less than a month ago through song, decoration and prayer must be more than seasonal glitter. Its lasting echo has to be a reality of grace that touches and transforms our lives. It cannot be a feast that we celebrate year after year, packing away its decorations only to go about our lives as if its central message made not the slightest difference in the way we live in relation with others in our community. Christmas is an integral part of the proclamation of the Gospel. It calls us year after year to make personal decisions about our daily, ordinary way of living. It clearly raises the question about the kind of community which claims our allegiance, a community, we hope, which lives the truth.
(Father Savelesky is the elected administrator of the Spokane Diocese, and pastor of the parishes in St. John and Rosalia.)
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