Canon Gerry Conroy
Every now and again the question of sleaze and corruption erupts on the political scene as it did here recently. It is not surprising; wherever there is power or money involved some will always feel tempted to take advantage of their position. The ongoing consequence of it is that people lose trust in others, they can no longer believe that there is truth coming out of their mouths, and the worst case scenario is that they become cynical and doubt there is any chance of finding truth anywhere among people. Perhaps even the value of truth is diminished and people begin to think truth is only a value insofar as it serves them and what they want. Truth becomes important to them only because no one likes to think they are being made a fool of or being deceived. That is nothing to do with truth as a value in itself; it’s all about them.
I think that the Gospel last Sunday shows us that this is not a new phenomenon in the world. Immediately after this passage, though it is not included in today’s Gospel, we hear Pilate’s famous response to Jesus, ‘Truth, what is that?’, and he then turns on his heel without waiting for an answer. Here is a Bureaucrat, an official of the Roman Empire who has lost any faith in truth. Truth has nothing to do with real life, it has no place in the world that he knows and is interested in, it has nothing to do with power and as long as Jesus is interested only in truth, he poses no threat to the Roman Empire. Jesus was right when he said his Kingdom was not of this world.
For Pilate, it seems that the only reality he knew and understood was power. Perhaps things haven’t changed so much, without power society would hardly function; the question is more about who has power and how they use it. Pilate’s riposte to Jesus was truth is irrelevant when it comes to power. Power was all that mattered because power was the ability to control one’s destiny, for the Romans that was also to control the destiny of the world, the only way to ensure one’s own destiny. There is still something of that mentality around, not only in governments but in the way we approach our own life. What matters to people is that we have control over our life and to do that we must have power: power to make our own decisions, power to be able to make what we want a reality. Truth is of relative importance beside that. There is however, some kind of blindness in that approach, a blindness that thinks we have the power to make reality what we want, a blindness that is encouraged by the seeming success of people to get many of the things they want in their life. But to get everything; to have a perfect life is not within the grasp of anyone. That should point us to the realisation that what we think is the way of the world, the claim that power over our destiny is the place where we will find happiness, that power is how we will get what we want, it should point us to the realisation that there is something wrong with such blind trust in power.
The truth that Jesus was speaking of was the revealing of how things really are; truth is a stripping away of all that is false and laying bare what was hidden to us about life. As the second reading said Jesus is the faithful witness. This is the truth. He is the one who shows us what life is about and how to live it. Pilate could not see it, many still cannot see it because they are blinded by the thought that power is the answer to control of their life. The real answer to life is found in listening to Christ. Why? Because God himself is that Truth.