Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Scriptures we have heard this night inform us that we are a peculiar people, a people set apart or sanctified, different from others because of the Word or Truth of the Lord. We recall the High Priestly prayer of our Lord wherein He gives the Father thanks for those whom the Father has given Him. “’I have manifested Thy Name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world,’” He prays. “’Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy Word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the Words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me.’” Our Lord goes on to pray that it is this Word He has taught His Disciples from the Father that sets them – and the Church – apart from the rest of the world. In fact, this divine Word of divine Truth does not endear the Apostles nor the Church to the world, and so Jesus says that He prays for them, that is, for His Apostles and for all who will come to believe their testimony and receive the Truth. “’Sanctify them through Thy Truth,’” Jesus prays to the Father, “’Thy Word is Truth’” (Jn. 17:1-26).
The Prophet Micah proclaims that out of Jerusalem shall go forth the Word of the Lord and that all the nations of the world will be judged according to this divine and holy Law. “For all other nations shall walk everyone in his own way,” the Prophet foretells, “but we will walk in the Name of the Lord our God forever and ever” (Mc. 4:2-3, 5; 6:2-5, 8; 5:4-5). We cannot presume to know the God Whose ways are not our ways nor Whose thoughts are our thoughts so easily or so casually. We cannot presume to know this God purely by human intellect. The God Who is utter Mystery is not as self-evident as we might suppose. He has to reveal Himself, make Himself known to those who give heed to His Words, and follow His ways of Truth (Is. 55:1; 12:3-4; 55:2-13). Our Ven. Father Mark the Monk shares this ancient counsel with us: “Read the words of Scripture,” he avers, “by putting them into practice, and do not spin out subtle interpretations, becoming puffed up with conceit in the process.” And, again, he advises us: “The person who neglects practice and leans on mere knowledge holds, not a two-edged sword, but a staff of reeds; this, when he goes into battle, ‘will pierce his hand,’ Scripture says,” and it will inject its poison into them (Counsels on the Spiritual Life, p. 100, #87-88). If we want to know God we must enact God’s Words, do His Truth, practice it, align our will with His will. This is the proper interpretation of His Word and the only thing that really matters regardless of whether or not we fully get it intellectually. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs tells us, “and the counsel of the saints is understanding.” The wise stand ready to be rebuked by the Word of God and the counsel of His saints, but those who are arrogant and foolish despise such wisdom (Pr. 9:1-11).
We see all of this being played out in the Gospels between our Lord and all those who oppose Him and obstruct His ministry. They don’t get it because they don’t get Jesus. They presume to know Him because they think they know where He hails from and His family. But, the reality is they only know Him superficially; they know Him according to the flesh and not according to His divine origins (2 Cr. 5:16), that is, from the Father Who has sent Him. Jesus is not about Himself, unlike us who are addicts of self-centeredness. Rather, He seeks not His glory, but that of the Father. He teaches not His doctrine, but that of the Father. He Who gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, does the Law righteously. If the work of circumcision is permissible on the Sabbath – thus, in essence, breaking the Sabbath – so that one can be made a son of the Covenant, how much more should the healing of a man or a woman not take place on the Sabbath – the very work of God? “’Judge not according to the appearance,’” says our Lord to His detractors, “’but judge righteous judgment.’” Judge according to the Truth ensconced in the Word of God made flesh come down from Heaven.
Let us return to this notion of doctrine. Other translations use “teachings” or some other similar term. “’My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.’” Jesus teaches His Father’s Words; He enlightens with His Father’s Truth. Our Lord doesn’t concoct this eternal Wisdom on His own, that it, it is not His own, as He says. He is eternal Wisdom because He is the Word of the Father sent down from Heaven. What the Father says, the Son of God echoes. The Truth of Heaven is enfleshed in the Word Who is God and revealed through Him. He is “’the Way, the Truth, and the Life’” (Jn. 14:6). He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hb. 13:8). “’If any man will do [the Father’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be from God, . . . .’”
Doctrine, in Sacred Scripture, is a good thing and a necessary thing, unless it is man-made and runs afoul of God’s Truth. We find this in our Lord’s condemnation of the tradition of men whenever it makes null and void the Word of the Lord (Mt. 15:1-20; Mk. 7:1-23), thereby making it man’s word based on man’s understanding rather than God’s Word based on God’s confirmed revelation in Jesus Christ. Doctrine, from the Biblical perspective, nourishes our souls and feeds our faith. It leads us to doing rightly, in accordance with the divine will of the Father., because we ultimately do what we believe. Our values are influenced by our faith. If our faith believes life to begin at conception and that the life in the womb at conception is a human being fashioned in the image of God, then how can we so nonchalantly demand abortion as a personal right that supercedes the right of the unborn child to life?
And yet, in our culture, we have a perverse aversion to the notion of doctrine, of a received body of Truth. We fear indoctrination as though somehow that it is an evil thing. Our culture has successfully linked indoctrination with cults because that’s what cults do. They brainwash you, frequently under duress. Images of Jonestown and the extremist preacher Jim Jones and the mass suicide he incited or the infamous Branch Davidian David Koresh and the fiery deaths he and his followers suffered at their religious compound in Waco, TX are hauled before us as prime examples of the consequences of indoctrination. Indoctrination is extremism!
Yet, we are quite willing to be indoctrinated with all sorts of beliefs – unsubstantiated or not – that masquerade as truth. What do we think the Internet is doing? Do we imagine it to be neutral? What do we think Madison Avenue is doing through sound bites and commercials and infomercials? And what about the media? Unbiased reporting hasn’t been a reality for a very long time. Now everyone is beholden to whatever social agenda is in political favor – be it Democrat or Republican – and political correctness rules the day. Actually, it rules our lives so that running afoul of it could very well cost us dearly. Is this not indoctrination when our children – our vulnerable little ones – are being instructed in an unscientific biology regarding gender be it through the public school system or Sesame Street? One wonders how a culture slavishly devoted to “following the science” opts to ignore established biological science when it comes to gender issues, among others, making them matters of subjectivity, that is, of one’s own personal beliefs or desires that contradict the established biological science.
In a recent article written by Thomas Griffin, a Roman Catholic parochial school apologetics teacher, he likens today’s cultural clash with that of Pilate face-to-face with the divine Truth embodied before him in Jesus Christ. In their famous exchange, Jesus tells His interrogator that His Kingdom is not of this world and that He has come into this world to bear witness to the Truth. “’Everyone who is of the Truth hears My voice,’” Jesus says, to which Pilate retorts in that well known line, “’What is truth?’” (Jn. 18:36-38). At worst, Pilate disdains truth, at best, he politely dismisses it with a wave of his hand. Jesus reveals to the political powers of the day that His Kingdom, not of this world, is a Kingdom based on eternal Truth. Griffin says in his article, “What an interesting concept to build religion, society, and politics on [i.e., the Truth].” He then contends, “The further a culture moves from the truth, the more problems arise.” A reality, I believe, we’re seeing today in this country.
Griffin goes on to offer his thoughts and insights on our current political situation. He says that power runs the show in American politics and it does so in two different, but equally skewed, ways: First, those in power determine what is true, and, second – the one we are addicted to in this culture – each individual decides for him- or herself his or her own truth so that what’s true for one person may not be true for another because truth is relative, not absolute. Griffin opines that “truth is sacrificed on the altar of individual autonomy” (even if it contradicts prevailing ancient wisdom or substantiated science) going all the way back to Jesus before Pilate (Truth to Roe, Crisis Magazine, 11 May 2022).
Doctrine and indoctrination are not evil from the Biblical perspective. The Church has received divine revelation which is divine Truth from her Lord traditioned to His Apostles who handed it down to those who came to believe their witness of the Resurrection. They taught this divine Truth to their catechumens or, shall we say, the catechumens were indoctrinated with the Faith of the Apostles. This divine Truth or doctrine was taught to children by their parents following the command of the Lord (Dt. 6:4-10; 11:18-25). Better to be indoctrinated with the divine doctrine of Jesus Christ than with the doctrine of the world that is like an unstable reed that breaks off and pierces your hand in battle, injecting you with its poison. All who are of the Truth hear the voice of the Holy One of God Who is Himself the Truth, the Way, the Life. Jesus Christ is the Light that enlightens all men coming into the world (Jn. 1:9). All who believe in Him Who is the Truth have Eternal Life and are not condemned (Jn. 3:18-21). Our Lord promises us, “’If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free’” (Jn. 8:31-32). It is as we commit ourselves to the practice of the will of God that we come to know God the Father, His Son and Word, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (Jn. 14:17; 1 Jn. 5:7).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
VIGIL PROPERS: PROPERS:
Mc. 4:2-3, 5; 6:2-5, 8; 5:4-5 Ac. 14:6-18
Is. 55:1; 12:3-4; 55:2-13 Jn. 7:14-30