The Truth, the Gospel Truth
EDITOR'S NOTE: On Jan. 1 we began a 10-week countdown to the beginning of Lent. Ten weeks? Ten Commandments? Yes. In preparation for Lent, together let's make an examination of conscience by means of this weekly series of reflections on each of the Ten Commandments. The following is the eighth entry:
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Ex 20:16)
Did you receive the email about how President Barack Obama refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Or about how he was sworn into office on the Quran? Or that he canceled the National Day of Prayer?
Did you receive the email about the "the study" that "proved" President Bush had "the lowest IQ of any U.S. president in history"? That he refused "to sell his home to blacks"? That he ordered the 9/11 attacks?
Did you receive the email that Pope Benedict XVI resigned in order to avoid arrest? That he was a Nazi?
These are just some of the many emails that friends, acquaintances, and others (who somehow found my email address) feel compelled to forward to me. The problem is that none of the above claims are true — not even a little bit true.
Throughout Scripture we are instructed against the wagging of tongues, of bearing false witness.
Yet many of us are practitioners and/or accomplices in one form or another. Maybe not in the form of vitriolic emails. Maybe it's other ways: In our words, in our actions, in our silence, we sometimes deceive, gossip, make rash judgments, exaggerate, and/or spread rumors. We sometimes do so at work, at parties, at community meetings, on the church steps, on the witness stand, or in the comments sections of websites. We do so about family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, public officials, and/or complete strangers.
We sow "discord among brothers" (Prov 6:16-19). We cause grave injury to the virtues of justice and brotherly love.
We behave like jerks, in other words.
And God hates it.
"The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Prov 18:8).
Indeed, how many lives have been ruined, how many people driven to defeat, despair, even suicide, through the breaking of the eighth commandment?
We've been doing it since an apple was bitten, when Adam blamed Eve, and when Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent loved every minute of it then and loves every minute of it now. What a coup for the father of lies: Pulling the wool over the eyes of the very species created in the image and likeness of God!
"Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight" (Prov 12:22).
Indeed, by bearing false witness against others — or by giving our consent to it through our silence — we undermine our vocation and duty to bear witness to our God who is the Truth.
We are called to conform our lives to the Gospel, to testify to our Lord without shame (see 2 Tim 1:8), and to be witnesses of the Gospel even if it kills us. We are called to "put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander" (1 Pet 2:1).
We are called to be His delight.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant. (2464)
The Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth. His Word is truth. His Law is truth. His "faithfulness endures to all generations." Since God is "true," the members of his people are called to live in the truth. (2465)
From where does all this false witness germinate? From hearts that do not fully know God or understand His love for all of humanity. We are to love as He loves.
Let us pray daily for the grace to refrain from bearing or abiding by false witness — in our thoughts, words, and actions. Let's pray for the wisdom to know false witness if we speak it and to challenge it when we hear it.
Before we speak of others, before we speak of ourselves, before we speak of God, let's check our hearts, our tongues, our ears. Let's check the math, check the facts, and speak the truth.
For the love of God and all His children, let's swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
So help us God.
1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides Me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.