By Sister Kathy Nolan, OP
Recently the Oxford Dictionaries announced that their 2016 word of the year is “Post-Truth”. Oxford defines post-truth as “an adjective relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” As one writer suggests, the key here is “post” as it refers to a “time in which the specified concept has become unimportant and irrelevant.” Perhaps another way of saying this is that post-truth describes a condition in which truth is no longer really important at all.
I find this quite alarming and frightening. The recent presidential election campaign was, in fact, a vivid example of how truth has lost and ‘fake news’ and distortion of truth has won the day. George Orwell described such a time as we live in in the following way: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary.”
As a Christian and a Dominican, seeking truth is a life-long pursuit. It is impossible to think that as an individual or as a society we would abandon truth telling and embrace deceit and obfuscation as the norm. For Christians, Gospel values provide us with the norms for living and the Gospel is revolutionary. Jesus says of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Following Jesus requires a wholehearted pursuit of truth in our personal and public lives.
Take some time and reflect on the place of truth in your life: Does personal or group bias cloud your vision causing you to see only your own advantage in a situation while blinding you to the needs of others who are different from you? Do you avoid truth through denial, suppression of painful emotions, busyness, and overconsumption? Or are you emotionally honest and willing to acknowledge the truth of a situation, even when it is painful? Are you willing to act on the truth and live with integrity? As Jesus states, “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).
That famous question, “Who do you say that I am?” occurs in this Sunday’s Gospel. It can be a very important discernment question because how we answer it affects everything. If you say Jesus was a good man who set a good example, that may be nice, but it doesn’t necessarily call a person to any radical change. If you say Jesus is the one who will judge us in the end, then it might just make you anxious and act out of guilt. If you say Jesus is the creator of the universe manifesting in human form to teach us how to live and love, you might feel more drawn to respond with your life.
At a very personal level, we probably answer this question differently from others, and even for ourselves at different points in our lives. Because Jesus is also a ‘person,’ we are in a relationship, and relationships change over time. Jesus may not change, but our understanding of him and way of relating to him will. Some of the different answers I have had to this question: Jesus you are… my partner… my hope… a caress… a challenger… the one I take time with each night and morning… the core relationship in my life.
Discernment involves other people. But the strongest voice in becoming who I am, and discerning what I am called to do, is the voice of Jesus.
Who do you say Jesus is?
The blog for this week comes from Sara Fairbanks, OP. Originally from Vermont, Sister Sara is a professor of theology at Barry University, an Adrian Dominican Institution in Miami, Florida. Here is her story:
As a college student I had stopped going to church. I did, however, want a relationship with God. I was a history major. In my junior year my advisor wanted me to take a religion course on the Reformation because that particular split in Christendom had powerful political ramifications for all of Europe.
In taking the course, I learned that one of the great themes of the Reformation was the right of every Christian to read the Bible in his/her own language. At the time, the bible was mostly available in Latin, which most people could not read. At the end of the discussion, our professor, who was also a Presbyterian minister, challenged each one of you to pick up the Bible and read one of the gospels all the way through.
I did not even own a Bible! So I borrowed a Bible, and began to read the gospel of Matthew. When I got to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you,” for the first time I sensed the presence of God with me, speaking these words directly to my heart, awakening me to a divine love that I had never known before, a love unsurpassed. I was in tears. This experience was totally unexpected. God’s love was real!
This awakening to God’s unconditional love was the foundation of my religious vocation. With the help of other faithful Christians, I gradually learned how to share my life with God through praying with scripture. In time, I began to see God everywhere in my life and to find God at the core of my very self.
Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP
Director of Formation
Sister Judith Benkert, OP
West-Southwest Vocations Promoter
Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP
Director of Vocations, East Coast-Midwest Vocations Promoter
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