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Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Truth
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Our present meditation is on Christ, the Truth, our duty to know Jesus Christ. There is no more stark contrast between the Old Testament and Christs understanding of the Decalogue than in the eighth commandment. As we have seen, the stress in the Mosaic code was on the prohibition of lying. Given our fallen human nature, we all have a propensity for not telling the truth. In other words, it is natural to fallen man to lie. Not to know that is not to understand human nature.
The grounds for this propensity are, as we have seen, our seven capital sinful tendencies (PLACESG): pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, sloth and gluttony.
Our inveterate, I repeat given our fallen human nature, our inveterate tendency is not to want to admit, either to ourselves or to others that we are (and then go down the list): proud, lustful, irascible, greedy, envious, lazy or gluttonous. So we are constantly tempted to deceive (and let me be clear) ourselves. And the one human nature that I know best, and how well I know that human nature, is my own.
When God became Incarnate, He raised the level of the moral law far beyond what it had been before He came into the world. He knew, of course, He must avoid lying. But, by His coming, He provided us with the means for much more than just not lying. He gave us the means of knowing the Truth, of living the Truth and of sharing the Truth. How did He do this? By becoming Truth Incarnate; Living among us as Truth made flesh, and that during His visible stay in Palestine; Living among us now as Incarnate Truth in the Eucharist.
Teaching us His Truth through the Church He founded and bidding us, change the word, ordering us, change the word once more, commanding us to share His Truth with the rest of the world.
Our plan for this meditation is to concentrate on Christ as Incarnate Truth. And our consummate duty is to know Christ as He reveals Himself to us in the Gospels, in the Eucharist and of the teaching of His Church.
By way of prelude, it may be a little heavy, but I thought I should do it, I think we should say something on what is truth? As we know, this was the question that Pilate asked Our Lord during the Passion. And Jesus gave him no answer for the obvious reason that Pilate was not really prepared to receive an answer.
Over the two millennia of Christian history, we have what I might say, chiseled a definition of truth and its worth, saying something about Truth before we go on.
Three Kinds of Truth
First, in general, Truth is conformity of mind and reality. The moment we say that, however, we have to admit that there are three kinds of such conformity. Sure there are three kinds of truth. It is always mind and reality in agreement. The Church has coined three words to identify each of these three kinds of truth: logical truth, ontological truth and moral truth.
What is logical truth? In logical truth, the mind in Greek, mentha logus, the mind is conformed or in agreement with things outside the mind. I think this liquid, next to me on the table, is water. It is. My mind has logical truth.
In ontological truth, things outside the mind, correspond with the mind of their maker. Thus, when God, created the world, He possessed ontological Truth. Thats why, as Genesis tells us, each time the Lord looked on what He made and said: It is good. What I made corresponds to My Mind.
In moral truth, what is said, somehow articulated, corresponds what is on my mind. Thus when I say that I understand Latin, and I do, I am telling the truth. Quantum mepacharete loqui latinae. When what I say or somehow express, corresponds with what is on my mind, I then have, and am expressing, moral truth. That was prelude.
Christ is Incarnate Truth. On all three levels, Jesus Christ is the Truth. Thus, when He said at the Last Supper: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He meant this to be taken literally. Even His placing, I am the Truth, in the center. Thats where He belongs. Christ is the Truth on all three levels of the meaning of the Truth as weve briefly seen.
Christ is logical truth. As God, Christ cannot be in error on anything which He knew or knows. Otherwise, He would not be the all-knowing God. His mind, His mind knows reality. Beginning with that reality which cannot not exist. God knows Himself and He sure knows everything outside of Himself. Christ is therefore logical truth.
Christ is ontological truth. As God, the world which He created with the Father and the Holy Spirit, corresponds, insofar as it is His world, to what, in His Mind, He conceived the world to be. The mystery of error and evil in the world is precisely that His rational creatures have the awesome power of refusing to think and to choose what is contrary to the mind and will of God.
Christ is moral truth. Everything that He told us (and then we immediately change the verb) and everything that He is telling us agrees with what is in His Mind. Christ is incapable of lying.
Our Fundamental Duty is to Know Christ
We go on to our third level of reflection on what I'm calling our fundamental duty in the spiritual life.
Among the writers of the New Testament St. John the Apostle is our main source of spelling out, in chapter after chapter, verse after verse, that our principle duty is to know Jesus Christ. To emphasize the priority of this duty, this duty of knowing Christ, is the primary, primordial, fundamental, foundational, basic responsibility that we have as professed Christians.
Believe me (and I know whatever I speak) Ive taught too many people, too many priests, too many religious, generous, gentle, kind people; yet, sadly, not all have persevered. A thousand reasons can be assigned, the most fundamental is not my opinion. This is a fact: The most fundamental is ignorance of Jesus Christ. Thats why in the turn of the century, then Pope St. Pius X, instituted what we now call, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
And rationalism, pantheism and modernism are working havoc, among once believing Christians and Catholics. Said Pius X: The main reason is ignorance of Jesus Christ. Of course, it better be the REAL Jesus Christ. And it better be authentic knowledge of Jesus Christ. And that is the main reason for the gigantic crisis through which the Church is going in our day.
I have just five examples. I checked through the concordance. I said no, there are too many, Ill stop with five.
First, to the Samaritan woman. Remember! Christ said: If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you give me to drink you would have perhaps asked him and He would have given you living water. (Jn 4: 10).
What a difference between seeing with the bodily eyes something of our purpose, some person and knowing that person. Husbands, after thirty years of marriage, tell me, and theyre honest, I still dont know my wife.
Second, speaking to the hostile Pharisees, Jesus said: You know neither Me nor My Father. If you knew me, you would then also know my Father. (Jn 8:19).
The hypocrites, the Pharisees, claimed they knew God the Father. And, Father for them meant only God, no doubt one personal God, who was Father to the human race that He created. Their minds were blinded to the fact that God is not only Father to His creatures, God is Father within the Holy Trinity.
Now that is why, in our two thousand years of Christian teaching, the Church never budges in saying it took Christ to reveal the Trinity. Call them foreshadowings, call them anticipations, but, there was no revelation of God as God having a Son, and of His Son then, became man. No wonder the Pharisees were so stupefied. And, they lacked the humility to bend their minds to accept Him. The fact that this man, standing in front of them talking, you may be sure good Aramaic, that He and the Father are one.
Whats He talking about? Remember! And John again: the Jews, with big rocks in their hands, ready to stone Jesus. Gentle, He kindly asked them: My friends, why do you want to stone me? Talk about self-possession. Is it because of all the good work that I have been doing among you? No. You, though man, make yourself isos. Thats the Euclidean term for mathematical identity. That's why weve got isosceles triangles. Remember, from way back in high school? You, though man, make yourself isos equal to God.
Again, speaking to hostile Jews, Jesus says: If you abide in My Word, you shall be my disciples. Indeed, And you will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free. (Jn 8:32).
Christ being God, remember, on all three levels of the meaning of Truth. He then, when He spoke, spoke the Truth. If those that were hostile, would have been willing to listen to Him, they would know the Truth. And then as Christ promised them, the Truth would make them free. That is why so much of the world is living in slavery. It does not have the Truth. It does not know Jesus Christ.
Over the years, I have found a perfect synonym for atheism or godlessness. Its Christlessness. Not to know Christ is not to know God. Not to know God is not to know the Truth. Not to know the Truth is to be enslaved. Enslaved by the devil, the world, and with emphasis, by our own constantly persisting sinful urges and desires.
And again, speaking to those who were willing to listen to Jesus, He told them: I am the Good Shepherd. I know Mine and Mine know Me. The Father knows Me and I know the Father. (Jn 10:14-15) That is no mere figure of speech when Christ called Himself the Good Shepherd. As we know, the only understanding we can have of the revealed mysteries of Faith, the only understanding this side of Heaven, is from comparisons or analogies between the mystery and something we know in nature. We know what a shepherd is. What is the main duty of a shepherd? The main duty, as my shepherdess mother told me, was to make sure that the sheep get a good meal. They need to be fed.
And they are dumb, wandering all over, walking next to a precipice, they don't even know theres a precipice. If you dont watch them, theyll walk over. Theres a pool of deep water. Barring a miracle, sheep don't swim though they may somehow wade, they will drown. As you watch them, I was told, they go right in the water and sink. Pardon the grammar, thats us. Are we ever dumb. Never be surprised at human stupidity. It's normal.
But what is the main purpose of shepherding - well what else sheep? To feed them. And this is the primary meaning in Divine Revelation of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. To feed our minds with the Truth, which in more expensive language means, to feed our minds with a knowledge of Himself.
Final example. At the Last Supper, praying to His Heavenly Father, Jesus said: Now this is Eternal Life that they may know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. (Jn 17:3)
I consider that statement the most basic in Christian revelation. And remember, this Eternal Life, which Our Lord identified with the knowledge of the One True God and of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, whom He sent into the world, that Eternal Life is not some future happening. No. Thats the Eternal Life we already receive the moment we are baptized.
Because with Baptism we receive the gift of faith, enabling our minds to believe. That means to accept with our intellects what is primordial (as I said before) to everything else in Christianity. And there is One True God. And that One True God sent His Only Begotten Son who became man, lived and died among us. To know that and to act on that knowledge is to have Eternal Life. And, the only difference between possessing Eternal Life here on earth and entering, as we say, eternal life in the world to come, the only difference is, that here we possess this eternal life and know Christ by faith. Whereas, in Heaven we will know Him by seeing Him face to face. If the same mind, our own, the same Christ, the only difference being in our now knowing Him by believing in Him, and then knowing Him by seeing Him.
So the ( ? ) litany goes on and the letters of St. John simply repeated or reemphasized and then the most elementary from one view point and the most essential from another perspective fact of Christianity. What is it? Not to know this is not to be a Christian. Not to believe this is not to be Christian. That Jesus Christ is True God, one with the Father and therefore to know Him by faith ascending with our minds to the Mind of Christ is the granite foundation of everything else in Christianity. And the more educated people become, the more academically sophisticated their minds become through years of education, the more they had better keep their minds in humble submission to the Mind of Christ.
Otherwise, these all kinds of learned vocabulary, oh the polysyllabic words theyll use. Some almost unspellable, many unpronounceable. Oh, how admirable their erudition. How blind their minds to the Truth unless they believe what we have just identified. I know.
How to Grow in Our Knowledge of Christ
We have one more area of reflection. How to grow in our knowledge of Christ. Once a person is convinced that this is Eternal Life to know Jesus Christ, the means of growing in this knowledge become evident. There are at least five principle ways of growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We grow in our knowledge of the one true God and Jesus Christ, His Divine Son whom He sent, first by thinking of Christ, by speaking with Christ, by striving to become like Christ, by listening to Christ and by enduring for Christ.
And I made sure that there were five different words: of, with, like, to and for. It helps my memory and in teaching, I find that it helps the memory of those who are, I hope, learning.
Think of Christ
Lets take each in sequence. How do we grow in this fundamental truth of our faith? By thinking of Jesus Christ. (Translation is not clear here.)You name it and its on our mind. Its just as well that our friends dont know what were thinking. What a jungle the human mind can be. Weve got to turn our minds from whatever else we are thinking and then turn our thoughts toward Him. It means moving our thoughts from ourselves to Him.
One recommendation: Ive done it over the years since I began teaching theology ( I can't believe it! Lord, it can't be! The calendar must be wrong) in 1951. To write our thoughts. We can talk without thinking but we cannot write without thinking. Put your thoughts about Christ on paper. Have symbols of Christ, pictures of Christ.
Thats why from the first days of the novitiate, we were told, every paper we turned in, always had to have, at the top of the page, AMDG on the left side and BVMH on the other side. To the greater glory of God: and, the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Speak With Christ
Second recommendation: How to grow in our knowledge of Christ? By speaking with Christ. He is always speaking to us. He wants us to, not just be there, vegetate (as the expression goes). He wants us to be in conversation with Him.
Thats my favorite definition of silence. Silence is selective conversation with Christ. Now if somebody happens to nudge you and wants to talk to you. Now dont tell them, sorry, but Im in conversation with Christ. Use your head. This is the main purpose of silence and the principal tragedy in a nation whose other name can be, a country of noise.
There are some people who just cannot stand silence. Did you know that? They cannot tolerate silence, its maddening, they tell me. This is the main reason for cloisters, the main reason for contemplative institutes to provide time and opportunity to speak with Jesus Christ.
Strive to Become Like Christ
Third recommendation: By striving to become like Christ. Thats all that the Imitation of Christ is about. Now the statement of St. Paul, we should all be able, please God, one day to say: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Christ tells us, learn of Me; He tells us, follow Me.
Listen to Christ
Fourth recommendation: By listening to Christ. This means openness of mind and sincerity of heart. As I've said so many times over the years, the essence of prayer is in the mind and will. You don't have to say a word. For the mind to be open to Christ and the will open to doing His Will that is prayer. It means that I cultivate selfless disposition of soul. Remember, we NEVER just talk to Christ. He is always speaking to us. The secret is to listen. And just to make it clear, every moment we spend before the Blessed Sacrament, Christ is speaking to us, constantly, intently.
Our only and main responsibility is to be alert and to listen. And by now I've learned to ignore what people may think. Thats their business. Ive got my business. So I sometimes have to have even a small bag to carry the things that I take down to Chapel with me. The books, the paper, the writing material and then after a short prayer on my knees, I sit down and put this watch on the kneeler or the bleacher to gauge my time and I start writing. Makes sense.
Once you believe that Jesus Christ is here, Id be out of my believing mind to for a moment doubt that if I come to Him, He is talking to me. And then (now don't misunderstand me, no rapture, honest, no ecstasy) I have lectures, a whole course on mysticism. I've never had what we call a mystical experience. But it's real...listening to Christ.
Endure for Christ
Finally, it had to be saved for last. How do we grow in the knowledge of Christ by suffering for Christ? This, in one declarative, shall I say exclamatory statement, which is the key to sanctity. Wanting to be like Christ crucified. All I can tell you is, it's real! And over the years, in dealing with so many souls, that God has unworthily put into my life. This is it!
There is no knowledge you can acquire of Christ that is deeper or more satisfying than knowing that I'm joining my sufferings with His. And I love it! Why? Because I love Him. Lord Jesus, You told us what Eternal Life is. It is knowing the One True God and You, His Divine Son, Whom Your Father sent into the world.
By knowing You, we know the Father; by knowing You and the Father, we know the Holy Spirit. That is all we want, Dear Jesus, to grow in our knowledge by faith of You here on earth. So that we may know by seeing You in that Eternity for which we were made. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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