• Fr. Peter Kavanaugh

Wrestling with Truth


Jacob wrestled with God from dusk to dawn. At daybreak, our Lord saw that Jacob would not give it up. He touched his hip socket, putting it out of joint, and said, “It is dawn. Let me go.” Jacob refused. “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” As Jacob wrestled with God, so must we wrestle with Truth. God blesses the person who refuses to give up. We do not take truth seriously today. We have been taught that everything is relative, that our feelings are precedent. Yet, truth does matter. Truth is living and dynamic, and our souls are starved for truth.


“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the father, he will testify on my behalf…I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them (Jn. 15:26-27; 16:1-3).


Why does truth matter? Before ascending into heaven, Christ prepared his disciples for the Spirit of Truth. Two things happen at the birth of the Church. The message of God and the message of the world both become more apparent. The Holy Spirit descends on the Church and “leads us to all truth” (Jn. 16:13). In the light of this truth, the shadows of the world become darker. The birth of the Church is the birth of a war, and we are still in it. The Church is an Ark drifting above tempestuous waves. If our eyes are not open, we will sink.


Why does truth matter? Listen to these words: “An hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” Most people have good intentions. They believe they are serving God as they know Him. Some call their god by names like Allah, Buddha, Oprah…Others worship their gods of alcohol and entertainment, or the idols of humanity, social justice, or simply ‘progress.’ To be human is to worship. The god we worship is the center around which we base our affections, thoughts, and actions. In the end, it is the god we worship, not our good intentions, behind our actions. Not all actions are good. Some are utterly catastrophic. If we do not have truth, no matter how lofty our intentions, we will leave a trail of devastation behind us.


Truth matters.


“Everyone knows that you should love your neighbor.” This was told to a philosopher at a conference. The philosopher turned to the person and responded. “You and I believe we should love our neighbors. There are people in the world that believe you should eat your neighbor.” Truth is not relative. Truth matters.


In the sixteenth century, the radical preacher Thomas Muntzer led a peasant revolt in Germany. Muntzer was passionate and silver-tongued, and had a huge gathering of devotees. The day for battle came. Muntzer inspired them with a hearty speech. God was on their side. Whosoever followed him would be unscathed by their enemies’ weapons. The peasants were thrilled and ran forward in the Name of God. Six thousand died in battle, and six hundred were captured. Ignorance is never an excuse. Lies hurt. Truth saves.


In the 2010s, some 800,000 Christians were martyred for their faith. In the ten most recent years, 1.6 million Christians have been martyred, all in the Name of God. Meanwhile, the real persecutions of Christianity are far more subtle. Orthodox philosopher and theologian, Jean-Claude Larchet, recently published a book called: The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul. From the radio to the iphone, Larchet looks at the impact of media in our lives. So much power. The M134 Minigun fires 100 rounds per second. That has nothing on the speed at which our televisions and pop media pummel lies into our hearts. The truths and “not truths” shape us into who we are and how we live. Will our hearts be filled by the Spirit of Truth or the Spirit of the Times?


Yet, how can we know the truth? “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn. 14:16-17). How did God lead us into “all truth”? He gave birth to the Church, forming and shaping it to become “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The disciples, “as they passed from town to town, were delivering the decrees” (Acts 16:4). They were: παρεδίδοσαν αὐτοῖς φυλάσσειν — traditioning, ritualizing the dogmas. The Church has cherished these spirit-filled traditions and rituals for 2,000 years, and they have ever since raised the souls of men and women. The cup is filled to the brim. If you want truth, you need only drink.


Truth is dynamic. True truth is not served on a silver platter. You cannot just google it. It requires the training of the heart, long suffering, and determination. We have to become like Jacob, wrestling God until he yields his blessing. When we finally encounter truth, it satisfies. Truth protects us from wrecking our lives and the lives around us. It is a banquet of joy. Truth is a person, after all. It is a bottomless sea: the greatest adventure, the most noble romance.


''Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Pr. 23:23).


Do we hunger for truth enough? In a culture so blasé about truth, Christ offers us a life so much richer, if we will only wake up. Truth does not come in entertainment. It is not instant, like your google search, or intoxicating like drugs. It is not noisy like the flashing news station. It is rarely comfortable, but always beautiful. Truth comes when we cling to Jesus Christ. May our Lord give us determination, like Jacob, to wrestle for Truth, never satisfied with lies or laziness, but hungry for the blessing of God.


Saint Benedict Orthodox Church

3808 Seymour Road

Wichita Falls, TX, 76309

FatherKavanaugh@gmail.com

940.692.3392

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