The Suppression of Truth by Wickedness

October 12, 1999

Romans 1, 16-25 + Luke 11, 37-41

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Today Luke and Paul both discuss the problem of truth being suppressed by wickedness.

Paul begins with a strong confession of his faith. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!"

He goes on to say that the glory of God is revealed through Creation, and thus knowledge of God is available to all people, even in the absence of Revealed Truth. He shows how this knowledge becomes degraded into idolatry, and connects this corruption of "natural theology" with "lusts of their hearts." Which is to say, they abandoned the natural dignity of the human person for disordered appetites and desires.

As I was meditating on these words, I was struck by how we today in the United States, supposedly the most "Christian" nation on earth, are repeating these ancient idolatrous errors. We have abandoned the dignity of the human person for the false gods of convenience, absolute selfish autonomy, and the reduction of all aspects of life to a combination of politics and economics, all unfolding within a series of cultures of death that overlap to cover the entire globe.

In today's Gospel, Jesus has been invited to dinner at the house of a ruling religious authority, and at the beginning of the meal He omits a customary liturgical obserance. He is questioned about this by his host, and Jesus responds with a series of denunciations of the "scrupulous hypocrisy" of the era, where fine attention was to be paid to liturgical details while the greater truths were missed. Jesus does not dismiss liturgical observations or religious duties, but he says that they must be animated by justice, love of God. The leaders are denounced for laying burdens on people that they themselves will not carry.

The problem in both readings is the suppression of truth by wickedness. The glory of the worship of God is changed into the offering of infants on fiery altars before statues. The requirements of the Law are emptied of meaning as we debate fine details while ignoring our violations of justice. There is a hierarchy of truths, this is a clear teaching of the Church. Some things are more important than others. Truth, justice, and the dignity of the human person are right up there at the top.

And if truth is suppressed by wickedness, then it follows that righteous is a revelation of the truth. In my experience, the primary antidote to the suppression of something is to make more news/noise about it. Like Paul and Luke, we can look at our world and recoil in dismay at the tragedies. But the answer is not to break our engagement with the wicked -- Jesus himself today sets the example for us, he goes and has supper with his persecutors. Rather, our call is to reveal the truth of the Gospel by our righteous living. As the saying says, 'It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.' The more the truth is suppressed by wickedness, the more important it is for us to reveal the truth by our righteous living. And as Paul reminds us today, this righteous living begins in our faith. "The just shall live by faith."

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