"Consecrate them in the truth"
In today’s Gospel, the prayer of Jesus to the Father continues.
“Holy Father…I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
Truth is central to the mission of Jesus Christ. Before Pilate, Christ said, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth”. Christ is all about Truth. He says elsewhere in John’s Gospel, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He makes it clear in this Gospel passage that he is the Father’s word, and the Father’s “word is truth”. So, Christ’s prayer is that the Apostles and disciples would be consecrated in Christ and Christ is consecrated in the Father.
What is also clear in Jesus’ prayer to the Father is that the world (sin) hates Christ. It hates, then, the word of the Father. It hates truth. It put Christ on the cross and killed him. Why? Because he spoke the truth. Jesus promised the Apostles that they would receive the same treatment: “if the world hates you, realize that it hated me first…the world hates you” (Jn 15:18-19). The Apostles were hated and were killed in a similar way (all of the Apostles were martyrs except John). A multitude of Christians have been martyred over the past twenty centuries.
The Church continues to be hated and greatly persecuted by the world for proclaiming and defending the truth in the twenty-first century. We see this played out most regularly with regards to its teachings on marriage and life. The Church continues to defend the sanctity of marriage which is under tremendous attack by the secular culture. She continues to defend the sanctity of life in all stages from conception to natural death in a world that views life as disposable. Just as the death of Jesus Christ seems senseless, so, too, does the daily martyrdom of the Catholic Church seem to make no sense. The mission of the two are the same: proclaim the truth in love.
Why does the world hate truth? In my opinion, it’s because of pride. People who live according to the world’s standards want to live as they please; they want to do it their way. They want to live as they want, not as God wants. They want to live according to their own truth. They have heard what God has said (Commandments, Gospel, Church teachings, etc.) and have essentially said, ‘no. I know better than God.’
Now, of course, I am referring to those who truly have heard what God has said and rejected it; I believe these are the people to whom Christ is referring when he refers to the world. It is those, like Satan himself, who have been given the truth and, in their pride, have rejected it. To a lesser extent are their disciples: those who have followed them in the ways of the world. This is probably a much greater number of people and probably the category into which many of our youth fall. Do the disciples of the culture really know the Church and hate it? Do they really know Christ and hate Him? My vast experience with this type of people has been that they really don’t know Christ or the Church and are surprised to hear what either is all about. In short, they are surprised by Truth.
Finally, it is an incredible experience to see someone hear the truth for the first time and respond to it. To see someone react to the truth about God, the Church, or life is among the most powerful experiences in life, in my opinion. It is an experience of seeing someone go from slavery to freedom. The Holy Father spoke so often about this in his visit to the United States because he knows that so many are burdened by the slavery of sin. Coming into the truth means coming into freedom. True freedom provides us the ability not to live as we please but to choose the good. Christ desires each of us to live in freedom. Truth is the vehicle for freedom: “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).