The Truth or the Lie?
February 14, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 3:1-8) Gospel (St. Mark 7:31-37)
A couple of days ago in the first reading, we heard the statement that after God had created the human creatures He looked at all that He had made and saw that it was very good. Today we see in the Gospel reading, speaking of Our Lord, “He has done all things well.” We see that what Our Lord is doing as He comes into the world is turning around the effect of sin. It is, in essence, a new creation that Our Lord is working. He takes a man who is deaf and mute, and He is able to open his ears and to make him speak. He is able to heal those who are afflicted with various illnesses, He is able to cast out demons, and everything that He does is done well.
Then in the first reading today, we see a serpent who comes into this world and he lies to our first parents and they fall. We see, then, that there is this tremendous dichotomy between the way that God does things and the way that Satan does things and the way that we do things. We know for ourselves that everything we do is not always done very well; it is not always very good. We know that the way Satan does things that it is never done well. What he does, he does quite well, that is, he lies and he is a vile creature and he does that very well, but obviously it is not good. We see, though, the subtlety of his lies.
Our Lord does things in a very clear manner, trying not to be tricky or trying not to be subtle in the way that he does it but is very clear and understandable. At the same time, we have Satan, who is cunning, who tries to trick people, and who tries to get them to do what he wants them to do. And he does it in the most subtle of manners. If we look at what he is saying to Eve, he starts out by lying to her even in the question that he asks: “Did the Lord God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” He knew that God had only said they could not eat from one tree. And while Eve acknowledges that, notice that she does exactly what we tend to do – she embellishes it a little bit: “No, no, no. God said we can’t eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden or even touch it.” God never said, “You can’t touch it,” He said, “You can’t eat it.” And so you see that he is starting to get her mind turned into a different manner, starting to trick her into embellishing her own story and taking the truth and twisting it a little bit.
Once you start twisting the truth you are in trouble because then you have to keep telling the lie, and pretty soon you believe the lie because you have told it enough times and you are not sure what is real and what is not, what is true and what is false. And the devil has you right where he wants you. What the devil cannot deal with is truth and humility and goodness. And so we can see in the way that Our Lord does things and the way that Satan does things that we are stuck right in the middle of it, and we need to make a choice as to how we are going to live our lives. We can live it according to Satan’s way. We can be subtle, we can be dishonest, but not in a major way – just in little things: add a little here and take out a little there, make the story sound a little better, just say things that will make us look good, whatever it might be. It does not seem all that bad, but then when we see the consequences of what Adam and Eve did we recognize just how bad it was.
Or we can do things God’s way. We can be honest, we can be about being upright and good. We see the mercy of God even in the midst of the sin of Adam and Eve. He comes right to His creatures after they have sinned and He walks through the garden. He is looking for them out of mercy and they jump into the bushes and hide themselves, not unlike us. If they would have simply come straight out and acknowledged what they had done, things would have even been much better for them at that point. But instead they had to try to hide themselves and God had to seek them out. We can be very grateful, as I am sure we all are, that God has sought us out many times. But how much better will it be, even if we do things the devil’s way and we fall and we sin, if rather than trying to hide our sin we will simply acknowledge it honestly and humbly and be forgiven.
These are the ways that we need to look at our own lives because all of us fall into these categories. All of us fall into lying and buying into the lie. All of us fall at times into trying to hide what we have done, in essence, being dishonest about it. And at other times, all of us have done what is upright and good. When we have done wrong, we have admitted it and we have dealt with it straight on. What we can see is the difference, then, in the way that the devil does it and the way that God does it. We know that we have done it the devil’s way many times and we know that it usually comes back to haunt us and cause even bigger troubles than what we are trying to get ourselves out of. And we know when we do it God’s way that it is not always easy, but it always works out in the way that is the best.
That is the situation that is placed before us. We can try to be cute and cunning like the devil and cause tremendous problems, or we can be just honest and straightforward and be like God – and all will be well. But that choice, again, is ours. God will not force us to do what is right. He will not force us to be upright or honest, but He simply offers that to us. He gives us the grace to do it and we have to make the choice. But when we are trying to be cunning and subtle and slightly dishonest or embellishing, then we need to be at least clear with our own selves that in doing that we are not being like God but we are being like Satan. We need to reject that. Even if it does not seem real bad at the time, we know it is not right and we know it will lead to further problems. We need to reject the dishonesty. We need to reject the lie and the father of lies. We need to choose the truth – and the truth is Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.