March 22 Homily The 8th Commandment.
Fourth Sunday of Lent, Scripture excerpts: Ephesians 5: “Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord… try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” John 8: [The man who had been blind said;] “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” The Jews said back to him, “How did he open your eyes?” The man said: “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples?” They ridiculed him, saying…”You are that man’s disciple (referring to the Healer); we are disciples (only) of Moses….The healed man replied, “It is amazing that you don’t know where He (the Healer) is from… (Jesus is) of God.”
Our preaching series continues on the Ten Commandments. We go to the 8th one today, which is: “You shall not bear false witness” or simply, “You shall not lie.” Or, put into the positive: “You shall bear witness to the truth. “ [I will expand this homily/teaching, as it’s only given online for this Sunday, and not of the pulpit kind with its own time limits. I will add on an opening traffic story, expand on how John 8 fits to Commandment 8, and review the First Station of the Cross as to how it pertains to a Witness to the Truth , and explain Deuteronomy 30 a bit, too, in relation to Moses getting the Decalogue and whole law to Israel.]
Added Opening Story> The traffic light turned yellow, and my friend did the right thing and slowed and stopped at the crosswalk, even though she could have sped up into the intersection, and maybe have beaten the red light. The tailgating woman in the following car behind her was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, dropping her hand cell phone call and spilling her coffee some, due to braking. She was still in mid-rant and thinking of even passing on the right shoulder, through the intersection, when she saw the serious-faced police officer holding a stop hand motion, coming up quickly to her passenger side window, as when she also happened to first notice the motorcycle patrol lights on behind her. The officer asked her to turn off the car, and to slowly get out of the vehicle. He ordered around the car with her hands up, and when she did she started up screaming again towards us, the officer had her handcuffed, there on the roadside. We watched as he called in the car’s license plate from his cell phone, saying loudly: Wait, ‘mam, and be quiet, as the police station clerk on the line checks you out. Then, he called up to us: As for you two in your car ahead, you are free to stay or go, as you like. You did right by your safe driving. A few long minutes later, he spoke to that handcuffed woman. Ok, I will just cite you for driving with a working hand-held cell phone on in your palm, as I saw and filmed you talking on it and quite distracted with the phone screen, while also trying to manage that coffee drink in your hand, all while driving, and even so, in all of that, you looked to be planning to run that light, flipping off the driver ahead of you for slowing and stopping. You are an unsafe driver, mam, but I had thought it was worse here. The now-humbled bad driver-said to him: ‘So very sorry, officer! But–what “worse?” And, what had you so alarmed to hand-cuff me? The motorcycle patrolman, while un-cuffing her, said: “I was right behind you and I saw the whole episode, while seeing the rear bumper stickers of “What would Jesus do?” and “Choose life, your mother did!” along with that fish emblem back there. I thought, perhaps, I was pulling over a car thief of some nice Christian woman’s vehicle! (A pause.) But this happens to be your own car, so I’ll say, number one, I am citing you $75 and 1 point for the filmed hand-held phone law break. And, Number two, WD40 would be my recommendation—for removing the bumper stickers. It’s hypocrisy against the sincere Christian motorists out here.
[How does this above story relate? The breaking of the 8th Commandment can be frequently seen by our giving insincere witness, showing hypocrisy, or in complying in worldliness and its dishonesty —rather than our better living into our full Catholic call into Christ’ reign. 1st Tim. 1:15 says: “the plan of God (for us)… is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” This should be our aim.]
The 8th Commandment, like the other nine, may be minimized by the average person, dismissing all that the Lord’s Word means. If they think: ‘Oh well, I am in the clear on #8, as I did not commit perjury today in any court of law, nor lie in some fantastic manner, like in trying to cover up about a very terrible thing or secret.’ Yet, in fact, the 8th Commandment is more personal and reaching than that! The eighth of the Decalogue says (again): “You shall not bear false witness” or “You shall not lie.” Or, maybe better stated: “You shall bear witness to the truth. “ What’s the Commandment teaching us? It is teaching us to aiming our living for what is true, as in standing before our God and what He calls is true. It is to accept more truth into our living. As in an arrow analogy, God would like us to one day hit the bullseye. Sin has often been described as “missing the mark.” Lies, deceit and compromise-to-the-truth does hurt our “aim” a lot. God wants to re-direct us to all that is true.
It’s Lent and we ponder things like the Stations of the Cross and the Passion story of Jesus in the Gospels. In the first Station, our Savior Jesus Christ stood in front of Pilate and acclaimed how He lived quite literally by this Commandment. Jesus said: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” To that, Pilate asked of Him: “What is truth?” Pilate’s question back, of “What is truth?” (“Quid est veritas?”) is of a dismissive tone of Pilate mocking Jesus’ over His speaking so absolutely and personally of truth. He retorts: “So, you are a king?!” Yet Jesus was speaking of “My Kingdom” to him, (as in God’s kingdom), as one “not of this world” but in another Kingdom realm of All Truth, whereupon all is true within it. (John 18:33-38 tells it so.) The right question, as John’s Gospel helps us to see, of which Pilate doesn’t state, (but we can,) is “Who is Truth?” John puts the answer earlier in John 14:6 when Jesus spoke the claim: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life.” For us Catholics, we need to live by Jesus, Who is our Truth.
People have been blind, deaf and mute of the Truth. It is why John’s Gospel presents people like that getting healed, as they meet Him. Our Sunday Gospel of John 9:1-41 has a blind man helped to having his eyes opened, healed with Jesus’ Divine hand, working with saliva and clay. The Pharisees put off Jesus for his special caring to this blind Jew, saying: ‘Why care for that man? It is his or is parents’ sin that he is cursed by God, and why we neglect him.’ Jesus says, ‘No, that assessment is not true, nor is it as what you describe. It is you who are blind, and by your sin that you really neglect or negate God in your life, and fail to serve Him—as it caring for the blind. It is you who are blinded, even while putting up your religious front, but you are not open to The Truth. Here’s the assessment: This man now sees with the heart as well as with his eyes, whereas, you think you have sight, but your heart is truly blind. You are not in the truth, nor of Moses’ law, for if it were so, then you would have recognized Me, and of God’s signs directly among you. Yet you still cannot see.’
It’s a dramatic account in the Gospel. These Pharisees were living in a falsehood, and Jesus exposes it. What do they, then, do about it? They verbally attack Jesus, while also yelling viscously to the cured man, too: ‘You were born totally in sin, and you are trying to teach us? It’s preposterous!’ and as John 9 tells it, then they threw him out. The cured man came upon Jesus, next, who asked Him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man, the holy figure to come down one day from Heaven?’ The man, realizing he was standing in front of his healer, answered and said: “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said: “You have seen Him, the One speaking with you is He.”
Truth is right there among us. Jesus is the Truth. As we live out our practice of the 8th commandment, it is the deepening realization that we are meant now to be living in a new truth and new kingdom of God. Of the Commandments, Jesus said He came to fulfill them, not to abolish them. Thus, as Brother Lawrence wrote it his classic work, we are to “Practice the Presence of God.” God calls us into truth. Falsehood is falsehood. The 8th Commandment says our break with this honest-to-God life evades what is humankind’s proper relationship to God. We are meant to be in union with God, Who is Truth.
And, what of this “kingdom” to which Jesus refers, as in John 18, which is remembered and prayed by us in that First Station of the Cross? It is a reality which already exists, a kingdom of truth and love, and we are to know it so. The Gospel of Christ proclaims the revelation that this kingdom of God is the one we are to pray to break through into during our living on earth. Jesus asked us to pray for “thy kingdom (of truth) come, thy will be done (truly), on earth as it is in Heaven.” We are to practice our living and abiding in the Way (or Law) of The Lord. As St. Paul says to the Ephesians in our second reading, we do so as people who are enlightened (given faith’s sight) by God, to be His true believers.
Sins against the 8th Commandment of The Lord start right there in the dismissal that there is such a kingdom of God and its absolute truth. Does Absolute Truth exist? Absolutely, it does. People who lie, deceive and act in all sorts of false witness miss that fundamental point: Someone IS watching over us. It is God. God is true, and people start out in life as missing truth and don’t see just how much they are out of alignment or commonality with Him, as it is as a blindness of the mind and heart and senses. Thus, Jesus has to heal us and help us to see, like He did for man in today’s John 9 account.
God made us for existence with Him. Our serious lies and acts of false witness, like the five categories that Fr. Virginus lists in today’s bulletin column, are all serious breaks versus God’s gift of our shared communication. These five categories are exposures of clear sins versus the 8th Commandment. Sorrowfully, I know of some of them that are happening in parish communities, including number five, the sins of calling down evil curses, and number four, showing grave mockery upon others, and number three, the way of gossiping to rouse and work others against another person or persons in sliminess and vileness, and number two. the spreading of stories in a backbiting way, and number one, the reviling of others—with consequence of robbing another’s name or reputation.
Added Commentary follows here—you may skip to the star if you want to move on> I (all too well!) know these five major infractions, though, frankly I might add, not enough so by heard confessions, as they hardly come up there. It has me wonder if people may be holding on to their breaking the 8th Commandment, rather than letting these letting the Spirit of Christ bring them forth to the light. Is cursing evil on someone is a rare sin? (It is the fifth category.) I was told of it being suffered by someone just in this past week. If these ‘filthy five’ are only done to so-called deserving people, as some think they are doing upon other in some explained reason—know this truth that it is never justified. Plus, consider how good people take on those offenses, like our parish member claimed was happening to himself. Haven’t you been on the receiving end of some sins of those filthy five, too? (If we’d say we are “good.”)
In survey of the Commandments, the 4th through 7th ones address mostly our deeds, while the 8th commandment more addresses our heart-revealing words. The problem is that we don’t live so honestly, as trust in the truth under God, in which all things are meant to run. The world has invented another way of dishonesty among one another. People shade things, hide things, disguise things, give half-versions of things towards their own favor, withhold things, misrepresent things, and more. These are breaks with the 8th Commandment. Onto worse breaks, people will attack another’s truth, take advantage of another’s trust or honest approach, and deal in hidden greed and lust and avarice (and all the deadly sins) against their neighbor—all in breaking the 8th Commandment. Courts of the world are all affected by these behaviors, as one has to wonder if justice will be served them, or something go awry in a court versus their innocence or honesty. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explores more of these kinds of sins, and the Bible points out very many ones* where false witness and lies abound in this fallen world—with the final answer that God is the Just Judge in the end.
(Just a few of the Bible warnings versus liars… Revelation 21:8,27 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable…and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” “But nothing unclean will ever enter in (to Heaven), nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Proverbs 19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or do you not know of the unrighteous…that revilers and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God? John 8:44 Jesus said: You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires, He has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Psalm 116:11 I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” John 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will teach you all Truth. John 17:17 Jesus prayed to the Father: They are mine, therefore: Sanctify them in The Truth; Your word is Truth.)
The Bible exhorts us with God’s Word to fully side with The Truth in Him that will make us holy.
Another category of falsehood is of those false teachers to the world, looking towards their taking the place of Christ and the work He does in His authentic Church. They sin terribly versus the truth, in this manner. If one reads Paul to Timothy in his letters, this is a main concern of an experienced apostle to a younger one. As Paul discusses it, then, (and which would continue as a dilemma through time), there are many in a false witness who would lead people outside of what Christ has authoritatively laid down. There are many pretenders out there, now and back to the start of Christianity, acting a life-teachers—but not under Christ’ nor His authority. It is a huge category of how people are in a false witness, doing things as if in place of what God has given to His Church, in their instead offering of a counterfeit. This is an 8th Commandment issue that is just mentioned here, pointing out how there are pretenders saying they are of Christ, when they are not. As it pertains to us Catholics, we need to be teachers and witnesses of the Truth revealed in Christ. We must be cautious in not being misled by rebellious ones of “the world,” who would disregard the Primacy of Christ, as Truth for the planet. Their influence is everywhere.
Let us discuss now the general behavior of falsehood—and how we believers are not to fall to behaviors of the world, like as of people who do wrong today while actually pretending not to be doing so, or of people shifting blame or deflecting attention away from the real harm they are inflicting on others, or just of people so blatantly living in lies—because they have some power or control and manipulation to do so. These devious ones live a life of false witness and lies.
We almost take it for granted now that we’ll be surrounded by 8th Commandment breakers. We cannot do as they do in life. They are of the fallen world system; we are of the kingdom of God. We live in knowing how Truth exists, for God exists. We are to accept the Spirit of Truth within us. These are the lessons particularly in John’s Gospel (chapter 12-17) and in the New Testament epistles. We need to be true, as Jesus is true—that’s our call. There is a Judgment Day waiting of The Lord upon all persons. His Truth is marching on, if not as yet is He dealing out what is deserved upon us. Yet the offenses made versus God today are audacious and arrogant, bringing on a Day of The Lord for each person to face. It’s best to yearn now to be true with God, and seek the innocence with Him that Baptism, Confession and Eucharist affords. It’s not time to play any games, but to be led along into truth. Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all shall be added to you.” Mt. 6:33.
God gives us time and ways to learn and live the Truth—but just for so long is His patience. When God spoke His Word to Moses, He said of the Law: “Do this, and take them to your heart and obey God, and the Lord will gather you and bring you back, and you shall live as blessed in the land…it is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach… No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands. “ (Thus, we have our Decalogue theme now!) As Deuteronomy 30 explains, we are to live for the Lord, as if under always under His sight, which of course, we are always in His sight–this we must acknowledge!
So what are we to do? We are to learn what pleases the Lord, as Ephesians 5 instructs us to do today in the Scriptures. Big things are in the balance.
In the song-chart topping album, “Sigh No More,” Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons growls out the lyric: “Who can you say that your truth is better than ours?” This line comes from a song on an album that was purchased a few million times. Mumford’s question is not far off from Pilate’s from John 18. Though the question has advanced a little (comparing competing notions of truth), still one cannot help but note the same pride at the heart of the question. And with the pride, hear the confusion, sense the lost-ness, and bear the blindness of the life in it without one’s holding to an absolute truth, nor in a God of Truth. The father of lies hides in all this falsehood deception, trying to keep us choosing and preferring to our being blind to God. *ref: Jn. 8:44
It is of such irony that Pilate was face-to-face and in conversation with The Witness of Truth, asking what it is. Pilate did not have eyes to see, no ears to hear the truth crying out to him. Today, we keep the reality of The Truth among us, in Jesus. As well, it is an absolute truth as being what the Church defines as real, how God is present and true, and we are meant to participate in Him and His kingdom of truth. It is the reason for Jesus’ stating early on in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to become “perfect” (“be ye perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect”). We are to become perfected as people, that’s what that verse and call means, and that means we aren’t there yet, so that this Catholic pilgrimage home to Glory is surely a life of conversion, and we have the perfect Jesus, Son of God, and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all that is true, loving, well and good under Abba Father. I love the guiding word of St. James when he says “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, Who created all the lights in the heavens.” God wants to enlighten us, with the light of Truth. Totally.
Yet the way of the world is more of a “whatever floats your boat” truth, in all its vagueness and subjective error and favor. Relativism carries the day. People want to think that they can make up and decide what is true or not. For themselves, and often, they will decide whatever forcefully they want it to be, or not to be, for others. (That comes up in ungodly politics a lot—‘notice?) Thus, in this manner, truth is all relative, so goes a modern lay philosophy of life, as “to each his/her own truth.” In ungodly power, some will enforce their truth as only as what goes. (Need I cite the million examples of it?) Yet there IS one Truth; it IS of THE LORD. You cannot bear the false witness that there is some other way of truth. Or else we badly break the 8th Commandment. ‘ Get it?!
You might have thought a homily (and teaching) on the 8th Commandment would be a list of lies laid out, to see how many deep ones you have broken. There are such lists for readiness for Reconciliation, but the core message here is our own response to what Jesus asked the cured man in John 9: ‘Do you believe there is some Special One sent to us from Heaven, as promised of old?’ We each (like the blind man) ought to answer, “Yes, I believe.” And Jesus says to us, ‘Then, live in the Truth I have shown all around you. Practice the kingdom of God, and keep separating from the sinful world. Love all people in it, but while simultaneously loving all that is true, of Me, in the world. Flee from sin of the world. Discern what is true. Love what is true. Experience Me.‘ (A prophetic take on living C #8.)
In a world where so many people claim that truth lies in the eye of the beholder, Catholics (and other good Christians with us) know differently. Let us not be like Pilate, or Marcus Mumford, and so many others, who may refuse to listen to truth. Jesus said that everyone who is of the truth, totally, listens to His Voice. Jesus Christ, the Word of Life, of Salvation, of Redemption, speaks. He is Freedom!! Let us pray for eyes to see His Way and for ears to hear His Way, for living a life lesson on getting back to the original Divine Plan, of being in God, Who is Truth.
Let us not doubt that the Kingdom of truth, the Kingdom of Christ is real. Let us not be like the Pilates of our day, wondering as he did: ‘You say you are a king, Jesus?! (as in, well, not my kind of king?!, implies Pilate.)’
Let us not make the mistake of Pilate, who said: ‘But I (as under the god Caesar) am the one here in this world holding the power and decisions of what is true.’ The Fact is that the world holds nothing! As the First Station of the Via Delorosa reviews that moment, recall Jesus’ retort back to Pilate: “I am not of this world… you hold no power over Me, but only what was given to you from Above.” We need to join Jesus in that retort to the ways of the world, as in declaring: “I am not of this world, no longer…it holds no power over me, but I am surrendered to and surrounded by God’s reign. His Truth is marching on! In John 18, Pilate then wondered aloud to Jesus, in perplexity: “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him… He then brought Jesus out…and seated Him on the judge’s bench, for trial. Likewise, the world may wonder about us, as we reveal Jesus, and the world may be perplexed of us, and even stand us up to its judgment. Yet we must associate ourselves with God, like Jesus did as one of us, to the Heavenly Father. We believe in absolute truth in an absolute God—Who asks us to be true people. So we believers want to do all that we can to associate ourselves with Jesus the Truth. One way is to witness to it: We are not false or fake or deceptive people, nor hypocrites—rather, we long to be honest-to-God Catholic people. Jesus did not speak to Pilate in that moment of judging, for His Truth was loud and clear in His life and example. Our own 8th commandment witness should be strong enough not to even require words of our own defense!
Telling lies, breaking oaths, and injuring others by our words and communications are all sins versus the 8th Commandment. Fake talk, manipulated language, and double-talk are all breaks with the 8th Commandment. I think that sometimes socio-political correctness intimidates us to back down from our Catholic Faith and the Truth of Christ; it can be a most deniable break of this Commandment today, when we don’t show our faith, but compromise it so to be worldly- acceptable. That can be a practice of fear and of living insincerely before God. When the absence of our living the truth creates voids that worldly counterfeits fill, we can repent that we have not enough been the Church living as a people in the Spirit of Truth. We can pray and say with the 8th Commandment: “I want to bear witness to The Truth. Help me, Lord. Help us all in the Church, Lord, to live out the 8th Commandment as truth-bearers, as Christ-bearers.”
Can you see now how the 8th Commandment is a call to courage and not just to legally live in some religious avoidance of a few out of touch “really bad” said things?! ‘Amen?!
Something extra: ↓
In finishing a look at this 8th Commandment, this call to God’s Truth is timely, but it is not a new thing. In 2nd John verses 2-11 is a part from a long address from this same John the Apostle, writer of the Gospel of the Lord as Healer and Lord of the Passion. He writes to the Ephesus area where he led a church, one probably in which that Mary, too, also attended at first, before her Assumption, and this was before John was finished there and off elsewhere in latter persecution days. In some ways, Ephesus was Our Lady’s church, so he addresses them so, but with some conviction about some fervor missing in them now. John writes as their priest/apostle:
“The Presbyter to the chosen Lady and to her children whom I love in truth—and not only I but also all who know the truth— because of the truth that dwells in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist. Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him in your house or even greet him; or whoever greets him shares in his evil works.”
The house is the house of the Church. We need to be a true people living God’s truths and helping the world around us into God’s truth, rather than cave in to a secular society or be deceived to run after this and that, and after that and this, for the satisfaction that is already ours in Christ Jesus, and of His family (and as Mary’s children). You can gather in community (once after the virus has separated us) and try to be the Church, or else you can follow something else. Yet St. John says to have little to do with compromise, but rather to be abiding in God and the Absolute Truth, revering His Name in the utmost. That is what’s before us. Go for it. Fr. John Barry
Go for it
Photo I took of the front of a church in the American desert.
Just three weeks ago.
Fr. John Barry