Homily of 25th November 2018
Daniel 7:3-14; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18: 33-37
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Thus, Jesus answers Pilate on how he is a king. His whole mission is to testify to the Truth. By such testimony Jesus holds primary sway over the hearts of every human person born into this world. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. But this begs another question, which Pilate is quick to add in the verse immediately succeeding today’s Gospel passage: What is truth? What is truth?
Like Pilate, have you ever asked this question? Have you ever stepped back and pondered: What is truth? What could Jesus mean when he says he has come simply and solely to testify to the Truth?
What is truth? Are we looking for a particular answer? The truth is . You fill in the blank. Has Jesus come to testify to one particular truth? Even the grandest of particular truths? In a short while we are going to sing together a whole string of truths – the Creed – and profess our belief in them. Is this the truth to which Jesus has come to testify?
What is truth?
Frederick Buechner points out that Jesus never answers Pilate’s question. He says rather that Jesus just stands there. He stands and he stands there. He stands as a vibrant presence, not as a passive mute. He stands there, right in the middle of the question, right at the heart of our human searching, not avoiding the things which discomfort us.
Could Buechner’s insight help us to understand our question: What is truth? If Jesus just stands and stands there, what is this saying?
Jesus’ words do wonders for us. They give us insight, they give us understanding, they give us light, they give us courage, they give us inspiration. Can Jesus’ silence do the same?
Is it possible that Jesus is doing on a more profound level what the desert father did in the story so often repeated in monastic lore? When asked by the young monk: “What more can I do, for I fast, I pray, I keep vigil, I share my food with the hungry…”, the old man simply went out, lifted his arms to the heavens and said: “Why not become all light, all fire?” He was saying to the young monk, ‘You are seeking particular things, you are trying to control your access and your relationship to God. Let go of everything, allow God to take control of you and transform you from within.’ Is Jesus’ silence doing the same for us?
Jesus’ silence sends us back into ourselves. Jesus’ standing and standing there is a door to our own inner chamber. Do we have the courage to enter? Can we muster the nerve and the guts to look at ourselves and our lives at this depth?
Probably not, if we rely upon ourselves alone. But Jesus is there. He stands and he stands there – within us. Looking at him, who knows what can happen?
Looking at Jesus, we are ushered into a whole new universe of which we may never have dreamed. In his presence we can see things not given to mortal eyes to see.
Looking at Jesus, we can see ourselves in another light.
Looking at Jesus, we can catch a sight of the truth of our being.
Looking at Jesus, we can understand not a particular truth, but the Truth with a capital T.
Looking at Jesus, we can touch the “deep-down freshness” of things.
Looking at Jesus, we can see that truth is what words cannot tell, but only tell about.
Looking at Jesus, we can know truth itself which ultimately cannot be understood but only experienced.
Last evening each of the brothers in the Mepkin community received a white stone on which was written a word for us to ponder and make our own. It was given to us for one reason, and one reason only: to point us to the wordless truth of who we are and who God is and, most importantly, the love which unites us.
This, it seems to me, is the grace of today’s feast. With Jesus let us stand and stand there and allow the truth to which Jesus our king testifies bring us into the fulness of Life and Joy never ending.