Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Lies and damn lies

07-21-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Experience has taught me that if you "buy a lie" the truth will forever kick your butt. Take for example the alcoholic who despite evidence to the contrary decides to buy the lie that he or she can find a way to manage their drinking. She'll tell herself that if she just exerts enough will-power she can control her drinking or if other people would just get off her back she wouldn't have to drink so much. Once she accepts that lie, alcohol will progressively ruin her life. However if she accepts the truth that she can never safely drink alcohol then she has a chance to recover and live a sober and sane life.

Many of us will also fight to make the lie true. We'll blame other people and victimize ourselves. We'll insist that if other people would only stop saying the lie is a lie, the lie would somehow morph into the truth. When others stand their ground and refuse to say the lie is the truth they are met with anger, resentment, ostracism and sometimes violence.

As individuals we buy the lie and so do institutions and nations. An operator of a large crane in Philadelphia bought the lie that marijuana is a harmless substance and crashed the crane killing many people. In this case the lie (it's just pot) beat up a whole lot of people. The US Bishops bought the lie that child abuse was a psychiatric problem and the truth that it is a moral and spiritual failing beat them up pretty thoroughly. The founders of our country bought the lie that slavery was compatible with democracy and that lie has inflicted deep and lasting wounds on our country. Presently our country has bought the lie that abortion is a woman's right. The truth that it is the direct taking of innocent human life continues to beat up our country by fracturing our society, our families and inflicting pain on women and men who participate in abortion.

Jesus tells us, "the Truth will set you free". Once you do accept the truth, say that you are a sinner for example then the truth will no longer beat you up but it may take time to heal from that beating. And here's the other part that is hard to swallow: you can't choose your dues. You don't get to pick the consequences that come from living a lie. Sometimes you can get off easy, other times its seems the punishment far exceeds the crime. You can rail against the unfairness of it all but that won't change it. You simply have to pay your dues and deal with them.

That's why paying attention to the decisions that we make is so important. Bad decisions will inevitably bring bad consequences and bad consequences will bring lots of pain and suffering. That's why faith is so important. It lights up our path and if we are painstaking about it we can find the truth that then informs our decisions.

In his recent encyclical letter "Lumen Fidei" Pope Francis writes:

"The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: In a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love....Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment and that a vision of the future opens before us. ... We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness. Dante ... describes that light as a "spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers."

In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Jean Valjean accepts the truth of who he is, though he still has to pay his dues, heavy as they are, the truth sets him free. It's through the eyes of the kindly bishop that 24601 sees himself as a beloved child of God and that moment of clarity forever changes the direction of his life. The light of faith will always light up the darkness.

Love, Fr. John B.

PS. I'll be on the Bishop's Hour radio show on Monday at 11am discussing my recent meeting at the Vatican with the Pontifical Council for Health Care. Immaculate Heart Radio is 1310 AM.