SUNDAY HOMILY -6th SUNDAY EASTER A
1 Peter 3:15-18
It’s often said: ‘Honesty is the best policy!’ I tend to agree. Some time ago, I saw a very touching movie, one of the best I’ve ever seen, called Secrets and Lies. It’s about a white woman who secretly gave birth to a black daughter, and who was kept from seeing and sharing with her daughter all through the child’s growing-up years. The story unfolds and undoes the secrets and lies that had kept mother and daughter strangers to each other during that long time.
The movie illustrates just how much the truth matters. So, e.g. we call for truth in politics and truth in advertising, and in a court of law, we are expected to swear to the truth of what we say – ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. For facts are very important. It’s equally important to us that we be known as honest, sincere, genuine, trust-worthy people, who don’t deceive, mislead, or cover-up. We know from experience that to sustain and develop our relationships, openness, honesty, and transparency are not optional, but absolutely necessary.
It’s also a fact of life that we human beings cannot cope with too much reality. So, we don’t take kindly to anyone who blurts out our faults and failings to our face, who attack and abuse us, even though they may be telling the unvarnished truth. For the sake of our self-esteem and self-respect, something more than telling the truth to one another is needed. That something more is courtesy and politeness, patience and gentleness, understanding and tact. While deep down we want to face the truth for the sake of our integrity, we will take it much more readily from those who show they are on our side – people who care about us, people who support us.
What’s all this got to do with the teaching of Jesus today? A great deal, I suggest. Jesus, who has just called himself ‘the truth’, as well as ‘the way’ and ‘the life’, tells his friends, including us, that he has to go away. This is the truth. But some day he will come back to earth, and we will see him again. That’s the second truth. And there is a third truth he tells. For the time in-between, he is sending us the Holy Spirit, his second self, to be our adviser, advocate, comforter and support.
We rejoice, then, that the same Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who was the source of Jesus’ own honesty, truthfulness and integrity, is given to us and stays with and among us. Unless, of course, we deliberately decide to be ‘people of the lie’ (F. Scott Peck), living lives of spin, hypocrisy and deception. That same Spirit of Jesus is available to us 24/7 to empower us to be as truthful as Jesus. He also assures us that the Spirit of truth given to us is also the Spirit of love, empowering us to be like Jesus too in the way he communicated the truth. This was with courtesy, politeness and gentleness, and with patience, understanding and tact.
The importance of ‘telling it like it is’ to our fellow-human beings applies also to what we say and how we say it, when we pray to God. When we are thanking God for gifts and blessings, we do that easily enough. But many of us are not good at telling God just how we feel, when life is tasting more like lemons than lemonade.
This is particularly so at the present time, when we find ourselves cut off from others, even our nearest and dearest, because of the restrictions imposed by the ravages of the corona virus. We are quite ready and even eager to thank God for the good and heroic people around us keeping our communities going, such as doctors, nurses, shop assistants, bus and train drivers. But we are not so ready to pray prayers of lament to God, prayers in which we complain to God, even quite vigorously, for the death and destruction happening around us and around our world. We don’t find ourselves praying, like the Jewish people of old: ‘How long, O Lord, will you let this happen? How much longer must we wait for you to step in and deliver us from this pandemic scourge?’
For many if not most of us, there is a block to praying such open, honest, and heart-felt prayer. We have been raised to speak only politely to ‘Almighty God’. Our sense of reverence and respect simply stop us from ‘letting it rip’ with what we ask of God and how we phrase it. It may help us to remember, then, that in the Psalms, the Jewish Prayer Book Christians have inherited from our Jewish ancestors, about two-thirds of the 150 psalms are laments, pleading for the Lord’s help in situations of desperation. Their confidence in God’s nearness to his beloved people, keeps them moaning and groaning over and over again: ‘Why? ‘Where are you, God? ‘How much longer will we have to endure this?’
Jesus has promised to provide his gift to us of the Holy Spirit, as the Comforter, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of love, given for our dealings with God and with our fellow-human beings. So, in the rest of our prayer together today, let us ask that when we need to speak the truth to others, that the Spirit of God will empower us to also speak it with respect, care, concern, and love! Let us pray too that our reverence and love for God will not block us from saying to God just how down and depressed we may be feeling, about the situations for which we are seeking God’s loving care and God’s powerful intervention!
Brian Gleeson is a Passionist priest, and a member of the Passionist community in Endeavour Hills, Melbourne.