Sincerity and Truthfulness in the Christian Life       (E.J.Tyler)

    Our Lord was often in situations where there was a gulf between himself and those with whom he was dealing. For instance, time and again he was attacked on all sides by his opponents such as the scribes, the Sadducees and Pharisees. Our Lord handled them all with ease. The gospels say that he silenced the Sadducees, and carried the people with him. They knew he spoke with the utmost authority, and why? Because he possessed, or rather he was, the Truth. Consider one scene of high drama in the Gospels. It is the scene in which our Lord is standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, the representative of Caesar. Christ is there, standing before him simply and calmly. Pilate said to him that he had power to put him to death or to set him free, and our Lord knew the horror of what was coming on him. Yet in this Gospel scene our Lord is the real king. Are you a king, then? Pilate asks. Yes, I am a king, but not of this world. He comes through as far superior to Pilate by his calm, moral and kingly strength. Where did this come from? His strength comes from being in the truth, and indeed by being the Truth. For this was I born, he said to Pilate, to bear witness to the Truth, and those who are on the side of truth listen to my voice. That was the witness of Jesus to Pilate, the supreme civil authority in Judea.

    At times my mind has passed across the pages of history and, thinking of the great characters of history, I have wondered what an encounter between such persons and our Lord would have been like. Imagine if it had not been Pilate that our Lord stood before, but Caesar himself. Imagine if our Lord had stood before the greatest of the Caesars. Our Lord would have been in no way awed, just as he was in no way awed by Pilate. Imagine if the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle had met Jesus. What would our Lord have said or done? I am sure our Lord would have been respectful as he was with Pilate, respectful but clearly superior because of being in the truth, or rather, because of being the truth. He would not have forced himself nor his revealed doctrine on them. He never forced it on anyone. Imagine if Mahomet, or Buddha, or Confucius had met him. Our Lord, in his serene consciousness of being the truth, would have borne witness to the fact that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that the one who loves the truth listens to his voice. But there is also this: any such person’s meeting with our Lord would have revealed that person’s moral readiness for the truth and his attitude to it, just as it had with Pilate, who, turning away from Jesus, replied: “And what is truth?” Years before, Simeon had prophesied of the child Jesus that because of him the secret thoughts of many would be revealed. The person who loves the truth will love our Lord were he to meet him, and will seek to know him and to be with him. St John in his Gospel writes that “though the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.”(1:17). Our Lord is the truth, he reveals the truth, he loves the truth, and he wishes all to walk in sincerity and in the truth.

   Consider his meeting with one of his first disciples, Nathanael. Philip went to Nathanael and told him that they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Philip then took him to Jesus, and Jesus, summing him up, gazed at him with happiness and said, there is an Israelite in whom there is no guile. No guile, no deceit. Nathanael was truthful, and he lived in the truth. He did not project an impression of himself that was false, unreal. Our Lord loved that. He described the devil on another occasion as a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Satan is a liar. He comes in disguises, and he disguises sin. He tried to tempt our Lord himself with deceits, as he had done long ago so successfully with our first parents. During his public life our Lord’s great conflict was with many of the scribes, the sadducees and the pharisees. How did our Lord describe them? He repeatedly accused them of being hypocrites. In fact his condemnation of hypocrites was greater than of other sinners - he speaks of people going to the same fate as the hypocrites. They were people who did not live in the truth, truthfully. They lived by deceit and guile. They were culpably blind. Our Lord on one occasion told his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, that of hypocrisy. Our Lord wanted truth and honesty in a person.

   I suggest we reflect on how the disciple of Christ should live his spiritual life sincerely and truthfully, just as Christ lived truthfully and had not the slightest trace of any insincerity.  Consider our Lord’s Apostles. We are told in the Gospel that our Lord spent the whole night in prayer to God before he selected them. Think of the care and the thought he put into the choice of them. It is impossible that our Lord made any mistake about those he chose. Then the next day he called his disciples, and chose twelve of them. These he called his Apostles. They were to be with him as his companions and to be sent out on his behalf. They were to be the foundation of his Church, the new people of God. Consider how much depended on them - the rest of human history would be affected. Our Lord lived with them, travelled with them, worked with them, taught them, went aside time and again to rest with them. We are explicitly told how our Lord spent time with them forming them. Contemplate how open and truthful our Lord’s relationship with them must have been from our Lord’s side and from theirs.

   Right at the beginning we read in the Gospel of St John how John the Baptist pointed out our Lord to two of his disciples, saying, “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Those two began following our Lord. With that, our Lord stopped, turned around, and saw them following him and  asked, “What do you want?” What a wonderful scene! Imagine being one of those two disciples! They said, “Teacher - where do you live?” They had not met our Lord, and our Lord had not yet begun to teach publicly, but their immediate acknowledgment of him as their teacher shows a sincere disposition on their part to be formed and taught by him. Our Lord said, “Come and see”. Imagine getting that invitation! So they went and saw where he lived and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. What a beautiful scene, and what a wonderful experience to have been among the first to hear and to be taught by the Messiah. Our Lord spent time with them, and they were open to his formation. They became followers of Jesus then and during that time with Jesus they came to see that he was the one long awaited, the one God had promised he would send to bring about his promised kingdom. And the next day one of them, Andrew, went and told his brother Simon that they had found the Messiah, and so the great work began. But the point to notice here is that it began by their being open and docile to Jesus, by going to him, spending time with him, not hiding things from him, being transparent before Jesus. There was no insincerity there. The whole of their time with him would have been truthful. Our Lord loved transparency and lack of guile. Think of the Gospel scene of our Lord in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha complained to our Lord about her sister Mary, that she was not helping with the serving: she seemed to Martha to be just loafing in front of our Lord listening. The fact that Martha felt so free to complain to our Lord shows how open with him his friends and disciples were and felt free to be. The success of the formation he gave to his disciples depended on that. They were truly and sincerely his disciples, and sincerely open to his teaching.

  But there was one exception: Judas. I do think we ought dwell on Judas more than we do because he must have been a person of great promise, and yet he turned out so badly. Remember, our Lord deliberately chose him from among his many disciples to be one of the Twelve, and did so after spending the whole night in prayer. The Gospel of St John specifically says that Jesus “never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him” (3:25). As already mentioned, at his first meeting with Nathanael, he knew him to be a person without guile. Our Lord did not make mistakes in his summing up of individuals. We remember how when Simon loudly protested at the Last Supper that he would be prepared to die for him, and yet our Lord told him that before the cock crew he would deny him. Our Lord knew his people, and he deliberately chose Judas. He knew his strengths and his weaknesses. So Judas could have been a great saint, one of the twelve foundation stones of the Church. Yet he turned out the opposite. How did this come about? How was it that the others grew in their faith in our Lord, while Judas lost his - and though we do not know, the hint of the inspired authors is that he lost his soul. He accompanied our Lord constantly. He was sent out on mission with the others, and presumably performed the miracles they told our Lord they had performed in his name when they returned. But despite this something bad and very ominous began to happen in the life of Judas. It had to do with secret sins. We are told that he secretly took money from the common purse, as he was the treasurer of the apostolic band. He did not face up to that secret fault, and he kept it hidden from others.

   There is another incident we are told about in the Gospel of St John. At a certain point in our Lord’s public ministry our Lord announced the doctrine of the Eucharist. If people were to receive the new life from God that would save and sanctify them and give them eternal life, they would have to eat his body and drink his blood. Very many of our Lord’s disciples refused to accept this doctrine and went with our Lord no more. At this our Lord asked the Twelve if they too wanted to leave him. Peter replied, to whom could they go? He and he alone had the words of life. Peter reaffirmed his faith in our Lord after having heard this most difficult doctrine. But what did our Lord say? He said, have I not chosen you? Yet one of you is a devil. Our Lord knew what was going on. He could read men’s hearts, and he read the heart of Judas. The heart of Judas was turning away from the heart of Christ. He was refusing to believe what our Lord was saying. He was refusing to hope for what our Lord was holding out, and to love our Lord himself and all he was teaching and promising. He was secretly choosing other things. All this was going on secretly in the heart of Judas, and his refusal to accept the doctrine of the Eucharist manifested this attitude and hastened it. Satan was gaining entry into the mind and heart of Judas, and Judas was allowing this to happen. The sorrow of Christ must have been great because he himself lovingly chose Judas to be one of his Twelve. Christ could see what was coming.

  Now what could have prevented this from happening? If only Judas had been open with our Lord. If only, in some sense or other, he had taken regular spiritual direction from our Lord! If only he had gone to our Lord and in some way honestly admitted to him his faults, and expressed sorrow for his sins, his difficulty in believing, his temptations against belief, his theft of money, and asked our Lord for forgiveness and for help in overcoming his faults. If only he had been honest in confessing his sins and in seeking spiritual direction from our Lord himself! Our Lord would not have thrown him out, but would have helped him to be a saint. But he chose to be secretive, insincere and hypocritical instead. He was secretly untruthful with our Lord himself, and became wilfully blind to his own sins. But our Lord saw it all. Judas had with him the most wonderful spiritual director and, we could say, confessor, imaginable - our Lord himself. After all, our Lord forgave the sins of people on various occasions to the consternation of the Pharisees. But Judas did not avail himself of it. He did not open himself up to spiritual direction. He was not honest, open, sincere with our Lord and with the others. He put on the appearance of being an Apostle like the others, but his heart was secretly being lost to Satan. The answer for him would have been to resolve to be sincere, to confess to our Lord his faults, his difficulties, and his sins honestly, and to seek not only forgiveness from our Lord but ongoing spiritual guidance. If he had humbly chosen to do this he may have become an outstanding Apostle and ended his days a martyr for our Lord like the other Apostles. Instead he ended so very badly and ignominiously.

  There is a lesson in this for all disciples of Christ. We must learn to be very open with Jesus and to bring our faults, our difficulties and our sins to him in Confession and in spiritual direction. The saints have been very insistent on regular Confession, and on making good Confessions. If only Judas had done something like that with our Lord. The saints also recommend regular spiritual direction and on honesty in bringing to the light our secret tendencies and failings with our spiritual director, as well as our hopes. We ought have a competent and reliable spiritual director who will represent Jesus and to whom we talk regularly and honestly about our spiritual life. Through him the Holy Spirit will enlighten and inspire us. So are we receiving any spiritual direction, say from an experienced spiritual guide who, of course, in all things adheres to the Church’s teaching? It could even be done in Confession with a suitable Confessor. So then, let us practice sincerity and truthfulness with Jesus in our prayer life, and be sincere with Jesus in regular Confessions, and in regular spiritual direction. The thought of what happened to the faith and the spiritual life of Judas may help us in this.