In the last two posts I’ve described the relatively new teaching in the Catholic catechism that God is lasting truth and love. Yet truth strikes me as getting skimpy treatment in much of our lives, including at church. People often say, “God is love,” but I seldom hear, “God is truth.” So I am on the lookout for truth.
I attended a wedding this past weekend—a nephew got married. Everyone knows that weddings celebrate love. But weddings also witness truth. The professions of love mean nothing if they aren’t true. So weddings present and affirm a couple, often in the presence of God, that is, in the presence of truth and love.
The couple not only professed their love, but they committed themselves to one another for their joint lifetime. The commitment is an act of will. That seems like another aspect of being true—that people decide to live truly within a publicly professed intention.
All of my brothers attended the wedding, and we were able to spend several hours together. We traded stories of recent events, and we updated one another on our families. Then we fell into assessing some highs and lows in life. As with the young married couple, there was a great deal of truth in full view. Brothers usually don’t pretend with one another—at least that’s how it is with us. I feel renewed now that the wedding is over. Talking and listening without pretense is a good renewal.
The Catholic Church and institutions like Penn State should pay closer attention to being true. If living truly were as important as living with love, the sex scandals might not have reached so deeply into those institutions. It seems to me that deception—a lack of truthfulness—was more central to the scandals than a lack of love.
Of course much of the sex scandal reached back before the Church crystalized its new definition of God as lasting truth and love. In the old church, God was mostly powerful or almighty. God as power fits so much of human history, including Church history. People may well have figured they were reaching for God when they stretched for power.
The divine right of monarchs suddenly comes to mind, as well as so much flagrant abuse and violence masquerading as God’s will. As God ruled with power in the minds of the religious, so monarchs ruled in the world. Thinking of their power as derived from God, there was then no limit to their earthly action.
How much of human history might have been different if through the ages God had been prefigured not as a person of ultimate power but instead as one of truth and love. Lusting for power probably violates love, but it seems mostly to negate a truth—that all men and women share a common dignity. Power should serve that common nature, not seek to control or diminish it.