Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary: 291

When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

"It's easier to tell the truth all the time. That way, you don't have to remember everything you tell people."

I first heard that statement by an alcoholic in recovery as he witnessed to fellow AA members. I was astonished at its simple, homespun wisdom. As one who had nothing particular to hide, I did not realize how difficult life is for alcoholics and other addicts.

Liars -- of the chemical type or otherwise -- continually disseminate misinformation and then have to maintain with enormous effort the tangled web they weave. Years later, in recovery -- if they survive -- it makes for wonderful storytelling!

But it's not easy to speak the truth. First of all, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot know the Truth. She must be revealed by the Mercy of God and not everyone wants to know her. The liar tells lies because he has never encountered truth. He wouldn't know it if it bit him on the leg!

Saint Augustine said, "It always takes courage to tell the truth." Facts can be recited, often with no particular effort, but all the facts in the world don't add up to truth. In fact, they are often used to hide the truth -- as every alcoholic knows. "I'm running down to the grocery store for milk, bread and eggs" doesn't happen to mention a side trip to the liquor store.

Truth is a relationship; it is a safe place where you and I speak honestly and fearlessly to one another and know we don't have to worry that some things are not said. If it's important it will be said.

Truth is an unseen third party who gives substance to a relationship. The friendship, the "we," becomes more important than "you" or "me;" and I would not violate that substantial "us" for all the tea in China. If I have violated it -- even in the smallest degree -- I regret it profoundly and would gladly surrender every advantage I gained by my sin in exchange for your renewed trust.

Truth is the Advocate who speaks for us before God the Father because we love the truth and make every effort to love, honor and serve her. Truth testifies to us the mission and purpose of Jesus. Hers is a safe house where we can rest, relax, recoup and be healed.

Today we honor Saint Athanasius. Among his many exploits he dared to speak truth to the Emperor Constantine, and suffered for it. Athanasius condemned the Arian heresy despite its backing by the state. For his courage he was sent into exile from his family and loved ones several times, and the controversy was still unsettled when he died. His earthly reward was the gratitude of a Church a thousand years later. We can only imagine his heavenly reward. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.