Encountering Truth

I found a book the other day in the “book” area of a Dollar Tree store titled, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in Everyday Life (2015), by Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. As I looked over the Table of Contents (8 pages long composed of 186 chaptershomilies–with each homily one to two pages long), it looked quite intriguing, and for the price of a dollar, I couldn’t resist buying it. As a note, I am not Catholic. I was raised in a nondenominational church that primarily hired Baptist ministers.

Encountering Truth is actually a collection of highlights from brief homilies given by Pope Francis at seven in the morning in the little Vatican chapel of Saint Martha “in front of an audience that is always different: gardeners, office workers, nuns and priests, as well as a growing group of journalists” (quote source: inside front cover of the hardback edition of the book). This particular set of homilies is taken from March 2013 through May 2014.

Homily #86 in the book was given on September 3, 2013, and is titled, “Jesus doesn’t need armies; his power is humility.” It states the following (Scripture notes for this homily are I Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11; Luke 4:31-37):

The Christian identity is “an identity of light, not of darkness.” Saint Paul addresses these words to the first disciples of Jesus: “Brothers, you are not in darkness, you are all sons of the light.” This light “was not welcomed by the world.” But Jesus came to save use from sin; “his light saves us from the darkness.” On the other hand, “one may think that it is possible” to have the light “with all sort of scientific things and things of humanity.”

“One may understand everything, have knowledge about everything and this light on things. But the light of Jesus is something else. It is not a light of ignorance, no! It is a light of wisdom and understanding, but it is something other than the light of the world. The light that the world offers us is an artificial light, which may be bright–that of Jesus is brighter–bright like fireworks, like a camera flash. But the light of Jesus is a meek light, it is a tranquil light, it is a light of peace, it is like the light of Christmas Eve: without conceit.”

It is a light that “offers itself and gives peace.” The light of Jesus “doesn’t put on a show; it is a light that comes into the heart.” Nonetheless, “it is true that the devil often comes disguised as an angel of light. He likes to imitate Jesus and makes himself look good; he speaks softly to us, as he spoke to Jesus after he fasted in the desert.” This is why we have to ask the Lord “for the wisdom of discernment in order to know when it is Jesus who is giving the light and when it is the devil, disguised as an angel of light.”

“How many believe they are living in the light and are in the darkness, but they don’t realize it. What is it like, the light that Jesus offers to us? We can know the light of Jesus, because it is a humble light. It is not a light that imposes itself; it is humble. It is a meek light, with the strength of meekness. It is a light that speaks to the heart, and it is also a light the offers you the Cross. If in our light on the inside we are meek, we hear the voice of Jesus in our hearts and look at the Cross without fear: that is the light of Jesus.”

But if, instead, a light comes that “makes you prideful,” a light that “leads you to look down your nose at others,” to despise others, “to arrogance, that is not the light of Jesus; it is the light of the devil, disguised as Jesus, as an angel of light.” And the way to distinguish the true light from the false is this: “Wherever Jesus is there is humility, meekness, love, and the Cross. We will never find a Jesus who is not humble, meek, without love, and without the Cross.” So we have to follow after him, “without fear,” follow his light because the light of Jesus “is beautiful and does so much good.” In today’s Gospel (Luke 4:31-37), Jesus drives out the devil, and the people are seized with fear at a word that can drive out the unclean spirits.

“Jesus doesn’t need an army to drive out demons, he doesn’t need arrogance, he doesn’t need power, pride. ‘What word can this be that commands the unclean spirits with authority and power and they go?’ This is a humble word, meek, with so much love; it is a word that accompanies us in the moments of the Cross. Let’s ask the Lord to give us today the grace of his light and to teach use to distinguish when the light is from him and when it is an artificial light, made by the enemy, to deceive us.” (Quote source, “Encountering Truth,” pp. 164-165).

In Homily #96 given on September 16, 2013, titled, “Love for the people and humility, necessary virtues for leaders,” the following is stated (Scripture notes for this homily are I Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 7:1-10):

The Gospel of the centurion who asks with humility and trust for the healing of his servant and the letter of Saint Paul to Timothy with the call to pray for rulers offer the occasion for a “reflection on how authorities provide service.” The one who governs “must love his people,” because “a governor who does not love cannot govern; at the most he can discipline, bring a bit of order, but not govern.” This reminds us of David, “how he loved his people,” so much that after the sin of conducting the census he tells the Lord to punish not the people but him. So “the two virtues of a governor” are love for the people and humility.

“One cannot govern without love for the people and without humility! And every man, every woman who must take possession of a government post, must ask himself these two questions: Do I love my people, to serve them better? Am I humble, and do I listen to all the others, the different opinions, to choose the best way? If he does not ask himself these questions, his government will not be good. The governor, man or woman, who loves his people is a humble man or woman.”

One the other hand, Saint Paul urges us to lift up prayers “for kings and for all in authority, so that we may lead a calm and tranquil life.” Politics cannot be ignored. “None of us can say: ‘But I don’t have anything to do with this, they’re in charge.’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I must do the best I can so that they govern well, and I must do the best I can by participating in politics as I am able. Politics–as the social doctrine of the Church says–is one of the highest forms of charity, because it is serving the common good. I cannot wash my hands; we all have to give something!”

There is a habit of saying only bad things about politicians and chattering about “things that are not going well. And you listen to the television report and they hammer away, hammer away; you read the newspaper and they hammer away . . . Always the bad, always against! The governor may be a sinner, as David was, but I must collaborate by contributing my opinion, with my words, and even with my correction,” because all of us “must participate in the common good”! And if “many times we have heard ‘a good Catholic should not get mixed up in politics,’ this is not true, this is not a good path.”

“A good Catholic gets mixed up in politics, offering the best of himself, so that the governor can govern. But what is the best thing that we can offer to governors? Prayer! This is what Paul says: ‘Pray for all men and for the king and for all those who are in power.’ ‘But, Father, he’s a bad person, he should go to hell.’ ‘Pray for him, pray for her, that he may govern well, that he may love his people, that he may serve his people, that he may be humble!’ A Christian who does not pray for the leaders is not a good Christian! ‘But Father, how can I pray for this one? This guy’s no good.’ ‘Pray that he may convert!’ But pray. And it’s not me saying this, Saint Paul says it, the Word of God.”

So, “let’s give the best of ourselves–ideas, suggestions–the best, but above all the best is prayer. Let’s pray for our leaders, that they may govern us well, that they may lead our country, our nation forward and also the world, that there may be peace and the common good.” (Quote source, “Encountering Truth,” pp. 182-183).

I must admit after reading this second homily above that it is not very often that I remember to pray for those who  govern over us at all levels in our society, from the local police to the President of the United States. I have always personally hated to enter the arena of politics as it is so divisive especially during election years. In fact, when I do remember to pray for those who govern over us, most of the time all I know to pray is “Your will be done” as I get too frustrated trying to get specific beyond that phrase. It’s not that I think the opposing sides are necessarily bad people but rather that it just seems that both sides kick in their heals to thwart what the other side is trying to do. For example, I could barely watch on TV the Kavanaugh hearing (for Supreme Court Justice) this past September because of the blistering attacks that came from both sides. It rankled my nerves to watch and listen to the vitriol coming out of both sides, and this is often what our political elections have become, too.

However, that homily reminded me that I need to “get over it” and pray regardless of my personal feelings about politics. I’ve never been one to bury my head in the sand in tough situations except when it comes to politics. But it is my responsibility to pray for those who govern over us if I consider myself to be Christian.

The last homily that I’ll share from the book is shorter. It is Homily #3 which was given on March 27, 2013, and goes along with the second homily above when we have a tendency to bad mouth others. In fact, it is titled, “Those who bad-mouth others are like Judas.” How’s that for a convicting title? The Scripture notes for this homily are found in Isaiah 50-4-9a and Matthew 26:14-25:

The betrayal of Jesus is compared with gossip, with speaking ill of others. This is the reflection on the Gospel that presents the betrayal of Judas for thirty denarii. One of the Twelve, one of Jesus’ friends, one of those closest to him speaks with the leaders of the priests, negotiating the price of the betrayal. “Jesus is like a piece of merchandise: he is sold.”

“This happens so many times in the marketplace of history as well . . . in the marketplace of our lives when we choose the thirty denarii and leave Jesus aside, we look at the Lord we have sold. And sometimes with our brothers, with our friends, with each other, we do almost the same thing.”

This happens “when we gossip about each other.” This is selling, and “the person about whom we are gossiping is a piece of merchandise, he become merchandise. And how easy it is for us to do this! It is the same thing that Judas did. I don’t know why, but there is a dark enjoyment in gossiping.” Sometimes we begin with good comments, but then suddenly we come to gossip and begin to “bad-mouth the other.” But “every time we gossip, every time we ‘bad-mouth’ the other we are doing the same thing that Judas did.” This, then, is the invitation: “Never speak ill of other persons.” When he betrayed Jesus, Judas “had his heart closed, he had no understanding, no love, no friendship.” So when we gossip we too have no love, no friendship, everything become merchandise: “We sell our friends, our relatives.”

“Let’s ask for forgiveness because when we do this to a friend, we do it to Jesus, because Jesus is in this friend. And let’s ask for the grace not to ‘bad-mouth’ anyone, not to gossip about anyone.” 

And if we realize that someone has shortcomings, let’s not get justice with our tongues, but let’s pray to the Lord for him, saying “Lord, help him!” (Quote source, “Encountering Truth,” page 3).

We might add to that last prayer, “Lord, help us, too!” As I read those words above–“When he betrayed Jesus, Judas ‘had his heart closed, he had no understanding, no love, no friendship.’ So when we gossip we too have no love, no friendship, everything become merchandise: ‘We sell our friends, our relatives'”those words send a chill down my spine. 

It is said that conviction is good for the soul, but it is only good if we have ears to hear and do something about it instead of excusing it off. It is a prideful heart that doesn’t listen when encountering truth. And who among us wants to be like Judas (and we all are like him from time to time).

I’ll end this post with the words of Paul from Ephesians 4:31-32Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted . . .

Forgiving one another . . .

As God in Christ . . .

Has forgiven you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Forgiveness” by TobyMac ft. Lecrae:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here