I hadn’t come across the quote before – from Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989), the Russian nuclear physicist who gave Russia the bomb and who later was an activist for disarmament, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 but suffering imprisonment and all sorts of hardships for his challenges to the then Soviet Union – “I’ve always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb and that’s why I gave it to my people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb but it’s the truth.”
Jesus said that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and that the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
The world, however, is very much like Pontius Pilate who asked, ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38). We can ask this question in all sorts of situations – sometimes it’s a tiny voice at the vast night sky universe or it’s a raging fist in defiance of something or it’s humanity’s deep desire to be able to define reality as ‘my truth’. For truth to have any meaning – objective, scientific, personal – it must present or reflect realities that exist – are true – even if denied. That is why the decades of post-truth, fake news, obstinate denials are corrosive to our relationships whether they are personal or communal. This is why corruption is so caustic to us because it begins with the deliberate destruction of truth.
As we come to the close of another Church Year in a world full of competing truths, distortions, and disputes, we can seem bereft of hope and full of anxiety. Everyone turns to truths that comfort and sustain them. Christians do the same and for them the truth is God’s Word made flesh – Jesus – who he is and what he has done and what he is doing now. He is truly human and divine. He has rescued us on a cross from all the lies of this world – both those we perpetuate and those we suffer – because all lies result ultimately in misery and death. Jesus has rescued us so that we might live with a peace that the world cannot take away nor matter how hard we are told that we believe a fable, a fantasy, a lie. And Jesus is with his people leading them into all truth through words, water, bread and wine – so that we may live as people passionate about truth – all truth – but especially about this world and us in it here and now. We are not cosmic flukes because Jesus died and was raised and his grave is empty. Each person is unique and special to God.
Jesus is the disciple’s truth – which gives us an identity so that we can live with hope and joy (even when we have tears and grief) – always oriented to serving those around us. And the best starting point for such service is the truth. Let us be conscious of and scrupulous about and always in pursuit of the truth in this world – confident of the truth that Jesus gives and best defines ‘life in all its fulness’ (John 10:10). Truth is powerful! Jesus is more powerful! And so we enter another Church Year …