Hidden and Revealed

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:20-21)

These words we hear the Lord Jesus say to Nicodemus at Mass today echo what He said about “nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:2-3)

I.e. No one keeps secrets from God.

While I was trying to nurse my poor back I had the chance to watch the recent movie version of Anna Karenina. When Anna and the Count are beginning their affair, they picnic together in a secluded spot. But Anna nonetheless worries about being overheard. The Count says, “There’s no one around.” Then she looks up through the trees to the sky.

Anna Karenina picnicThere is always Someone around.

Does that mean that the Lord Jesus invented the idea of “transparency?”

Well, not exactly… He also counseled—and practiced—discretion. He spoke openly in parables, but only explained them in private to His chosen ones. He ordered His disciples never to cast pearls before swine. He knew all along Who He was and what the Father willed for Him, but He was mighty cagey about spelling it all out. He told the people He cured to keep quiet about it. When demons recognized Him as the Messiah, He commanded them to be silent. He ordered us, when we pray, to go to our inner rooms to do so.

We certainly want “transparent” organizations, as opposed to shady, corrupt ones. The Lord Himself declared, more or less, something that we all know: Honest people welcome investigators. Honest people have nothing to hide. In fact, honesty gives us the luxury to forget the things that we tell people today. If all the things we say today are true, then they’ll be true tomorrow, too, whether or not we remember. Liars have to lay awake nights remembering all their lies.

The light of truth will reveal all in the end. The truth will vindicate the honest and will condemn the dishonest.

Zubaran agnus deiBut, until then, not every moment calls for “full disclosure.” I had a girlfriend in college, and we agreed that our relationship had to be based on “100% honesty, all the time.” You can see how that worked out.

Being genuinely trustworthy has two sides: 1. Always speaking truth. 2. Keeping silent a lot of the time. We just heard the consummate example of this two weeks ago: During His Passion, the Lord—Who did not shy away from speaking the truth at the proper time—went from quiet to absolutely silent. People asked Him questions, to which He certainly knew the answers. But He opened not His mouth. It was not the time. Speaking would have served no purpose.

The truth is always bigger than what we mortals can know or express. May we seek it always, live in it always, testify to it when we should, and spend the rest of the time listening for it.

Reaction to Reading John 9

There are a number of moments in this gospel passage when people seem, frankly, out of it.

“Lord, who sinned? This man or his parents?”

“Is this the one who used to sit and beg? No, it just looks like him.”

“This man might have cured the blind, but he cannot come from God because he does not keep the sabbath!”

These statements all have one thing in common: They are obtuse.

The Lord Jesus enabled a man born blind to see what was in front of his face. But it seems like everyone else involved could not see what was in front of their faces.

“Is your son cured?” “Ask him.”

“Are you disciples of Christ?” “No, we are disciples of Moses.”

“Where is the man who cured you?” “I don’t know.”

“What do you have to say about him?—No wait. You were born in sin, so how can you teach us?”

At one point, the cured blind man began to speak by saying, “This is what is so amazing…” What is amazing is that no one talks in a simple straight line. No one wants to acknowledge the obvious facts.

Except the Lord Jesus. “I am the light of the world,” He said.

Pontius Pilate

The Lord of truth has no patience for obtuse and manipulative speech. In the Sermon on the Mount, He insisted: “Let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No.” A disciple of Christ lives in the simplicity of the truth, without fearing it or blinkering himself to it, without trying to change it or fudge it.

The fact of the matter is, we human beings cannot live in peace with each other if we do not have confidence in each other’s commitment to seeking and speaking the truth.

The account of the cure of the man born blind would be much more satisfying to read if everyone involved loved the truth. But rather, the episode provides us with a particularly vivid example of a situation where trust and truthfulness have been lost.

The streets of Jerusalem hissed with whispers in shadowy corners. Small, weak men fought for their petty prerogatives. They conspired and plotted. The idea of the common good did not enter their minds, except as a pretext for self-serving violence.

The light of the world walked unarmed into this cesspool of dissimulation. He spoke divine truth with unguarded forthrightness and calm candor. When Christ went up to the obtuse city that Jerusalem had become, He showed us the path to honesty in this fallen world: He prized the truth more than His own mortal life.

Pontius Pilate tried to flim-flam his way through the Passover festival. Instead, he wound up with a riot on his hands and his lackluster career in peril.

Pilate knew the mysterious rabbi was innocent. But he sent Him to a cruel death anyway.

Before He took the cross in His hands, the condemned Galilean said:

For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.