The Unceasing Call of Truth: seek it, embrace it, let the Love who is Absolute Truth transform your life.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
4 February 2017
The call of Truth is unceasing and unquenchable. It cannot be permanently silenced but only suppressed briefly. Nevertheless, it is often feared. Stepping into the light of truth always requires change. We must not stubbornly attempt to remain the same person once our heart is intentionally exposed to this divine, unchanging and ancient Light, since to do so would be to reject our very purpose.
God, who is Absolute Truth, desires nothing other than your permanent happiness—in fact, his intention is for you to experience burning joy and love. However, that fact may not make things easier.
One quickly finds that those who love the truth are courageous, not cowardly; they are strong, not weak. Yet we perceive the change required of living the truth to be painful, involving suffering—so it often does. The goodness and beauty of truth is not without cost. Consequently, it is often the case that people feverishly attempt to bury the truth in a distant, hidden land. This is nothing new, but rather recently it has taken a new form.
For centuries now, the human thirst for absolute and transcendent beauty, goodness and truth found in God alone, has been systematically suppressed, suffocated by a highly detrimental philosophical system which ignores or denies the goal of the human person. It shuns the purpose for which each and every one of us is created: to join in eternal Trinitarian communion and live, forever, in union with Absolute Beauty, Goodness and Truth.
One obvious way in which the human person’s desire for transcendent Beauty, Goodness and Truth has been suppressed is through the widespread notion that human freedom is something to be used without reference to God and his loving and eternal plan known and expressed by the natural moral law. We see this relating especially to the contexts of family, marriage and human sexuality, and frequently expressed in various media venues and the entertainment industry. Such a philosophy, often termed “post-modern autonomism,” is dangerous because, in raising man above God, it denies the transcendent dimension of human nature and the purpose for which each human person exists; namely, that the human person is created for God and can only achieve perfect fulfillment and happiness in joining into union with the Tripersonal God.
Another way the human thirst for transcendent Beauty, Goodness and Truth is obscured is by our culture’s exaggeration of the value of evanescent, created things. People are often programmed to think that material possessions and other creatures will bring lasting happiness. Consequently, the thirst for Divine Beauty is often replaced with an inappropriate fascination with created beauty. However created things may contribute to happiness, they do so only temporarily and thus a healthy and holy detachment from created things is important to nourish. Regardless of how we may try to fill our life with creatures, the human heart cannot be long satisfied with anything less than the eternal and ancient beauty and goodness of transcendent Truth Itself. As St. Augustine wrote: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Truth persists; it whispers, calls, even shouts. The truth is irresistible because the source of all truth is God, who is Absolute Truth, for whom we are made and in whom we find our fulfillment. Those who try to shun it, ignore it or bury it, do not bring themselves relief or gain serenity but rather merely put off an urge which will soon rise up again with irritating persistence.
The point is, you were made for the Truth. You were created in God’s image and likeness and bestowed in God’s wisdom and goodness with a sacred human dignity. As such, your being is ontologically permeated by truth. Union with sublime and transcendent Truth, whether admitted or not, is the supreme goal you seek. And because God is Absolute Truth and Love, your life must, in some significant moral way, conform to that same truth and love. Such a fact of theology points directly to the necessity of setting out on a very specific journey in life, with a definite goal. A goal for which it is worth dying.
In Dignitatus Humanae Pope Paul VI wrote, “All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it” (DH 1 § 2). This duty, notes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, derives from “the very dignity of the human person” (CCC 2104; DH 2).
The duty to seek the truth derives from the dignity of the human person precisely because the truth is necessary for the authentic development of the human person, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI noted in Caritas In Veritate. It is through seeking the truth, finding it and adhering to it that God’s plan is realized in our life. Human dignity demands, then, an urgent concern and love for truth:
[Love] is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth. Each person finds his good by adherence to God’s plan for him, in order to realize it fully: in this plan, he finds his truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free. (cf. Jn 8:32; CIV 1)
In the introduction to Veritatis Splendor, Pope St. John Paul II opens with words expressing the beautiful and perennial fact that truth is not simply opinion or idea but the Person of Jesus Christ. In obedience to this divine and saving Truth, men are elevated to a new status: Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, “the true light that enlightens everyone” (Jn 1:9), people become “light in the Lord” and “children of light” (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by “obedience to the truth” (1 Pet 1:22).
However, notes St. John Paul II, there are obstacles and dangers that can all too easily derail men from the path of authentic truth:
This obedience is not always easy. As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living and true God in order to direct it towards idols (cf. 1 Thes 1:9), exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25). Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and skepticism (cf. Jn 18:38), he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself. (VS 1)
It would seem that seeking and acquiring the truth has become exceedingly complicated and difficult. We live in a world of confusion, conflicting opinions, and millions upon millions of sound bites and catchy corporate phrases. Religious indifference, militant secularism, widespread relativism—all these things—obscure our search for what is true. Children are raised in an obstinate spirit of pragmatism, taught not so much what is true, and truly beautiful and good, but rather what is technically useful information in order to secure a career in the future; they are programmed with what is deemed most necessary to survive in the world, as if it alone comprises the goal par excellence. Later, in college and university, they encounter the world of academia and its quite blatant hostility toward religious truth, where dogma is viewed as intellectually stifling, where the Church is looked upon with a cold, calculating, suspicious rationality and blatant skepticism.
While these influences work against us, it would be quite offensive to God, I think, if we believed he did not include in his plan of salvation a sure and certain way, an infallible means in fact, to access his divine revelation without corruption and in its full purity, found present in its perfect fullness in his Son, Jesus Christ. The obvious question then becomes: “How do I hear Christ’s voice in the present, right now?” How do I know with certainty what is really true?
Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (Jn 18:37)
We hear Christ’s voice in the heart of the Church he divinely instituted (see Mt. 16:17-19) as an instrument of salvation and the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Within this holy and Spirit-guided dwelling place, in which the fullness of truth subsists, the saving Gospel and the divine revelation of God is infallibly transmitted in its full purity to humankind for salvation. It is in holy Church that, as a mother, we are raised in the truth and are taught not only what it means to really live, but how to really live and die. Further, it is within the safe womb of the Church that, in faith, we receive the sacraments which communicate the Spirit of God to men. Through faith and baptism, we are inserted into the Church, configured to Christ, given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and become temples of that same Spirit as members of Christ’s one body.
Living the Catholic life, while it is indeed glorious, is not easy, as it is similarly a challenge to follow Christ as his disciple. The divine light of truth radiated by the Church, through which we comprehend the historical deeds of Christ and hear his sublime and perennial voice, requires submission and change. We cannot remain the same after exposure to the ancient beauty and goodness of Absolute Truth. Again, this life is for the courageous; for those who want to live in the fullest possible way, which of itself demands dying to self. There can be no selfish compromises or accommodations. One cannot claim to love God while he yet insists on living in disharmony with God’s plan.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17).
The last horizon of truth lies at the point of death. It is there that the line is drawn. Death of our physical bodies and the subsequent judgment to follow is, in fact, one of the most important truths upon which to deeply reflect. At that moment in our future, constantly drawing nearer, will we be confirmed as a person of truth, whose love for God was manifest through our deeds and words in union with Christ? Or, on the other hand, will the produce of our life be best described as a constant suppression of truth? In other words, will our life be finalized in embracing the transcendent and perfect beauty and goodness of Truth Itself, or in rejecting the same?
Loving the truth is about possessing God. It is not possible to express in words the beauty of God and the excellence of living a life immersed in and governed by what is really true. Words that come to mind are authentic freedom, joy, love, peacefulness, virtue, certainty, focus, direction, discipline, happiness. If loving the truth is directed toward possessing God, in whom all our happiness resides, it is essential to remember that possessing God is directly tied to living our life according to his plan of love in free obedience. Obedience of faith is a submission of the whole man to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ—to his way of life and his commandments (see Jn 14:21). It is an intense desire for full union with him. It is a properly oriented moral life. It is an unwavering knowledge of one’s urgent dependency on God—a truth which reaches into the very core of our being. In this light, all things become secondary to Divine Truth and Beauty.
It is in embracing truth, joining into union with God who is Absolute Truth, that we find peace and happiness in both this life and the next. Then we shall possess his sublime and ineffable fragrance for eternity.
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Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.