by fr. John Abberton
The Gospel According to St. John, Jesus prays to the Father for His disciples:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one”
(Chapter 17 Verses 14 through 20).
I have read this according to the New Revised Standard Version. In the Jerusalem Bible we read, not “sanctify them in the truth”, but “consecrate them”.
To be consecrated means to be “set apart” for a holy purpose. To sanctify also means, “To make holy”. A consecrated thing or person is made holy by God. When we are consecrated: given over to God, we have holiness bestowed on us. We belong to God; we are God’s property. Since we are beings with free will, we must also cooperate with God by choice. We are sanctified by God, but not against our will. We are given holiness but we must also choose it. Holiness is not a cold, clinical approach to life. It is a discipline but it is the discipline of love. The holiest amongst us is the most loving. It needs to be said, as well, that this is not about appearances or exhibitionism: those who truly love know when to speak and when to be silent.
A musical instrument best serves its purpose when it is tuned by the one who plays it in relation to the other instruments in the band or orchestra. The instrument must be pliable, responsive and reliable. The strings must be in good shape, the wood of good quality the metal clean. A concert violinist, for example, may have more than one violin. He will know how to get the very best out of each one. He will handle each violin in such a way that he will respect the strengths and weaknesses of each instrument.
We belong to Jesus Christ.
To be consecrated to the Truth means several things:To begin with;
1. We must try to know enough about ourselves to understand how we may be of use in the world.
2. We must know that there is more to learn.
3. We must know where to look, or who to ask, for the answers we need about ourselves.
4. We must be able to listen and learn without being overcome by fear or prejudice of any kind.
We must be humble. Humility is openness to the Truth. It is close to docility, which means the ability to listen and learn. It is not easy to be humble, but without humility the other Christian virtues will not flourish. Humility is the soil where God plants the most beautiful things in His garden. We need to guard and develop the virtue of humility. It helps to know a few facts about ourselves. I have taken the following from a little book called, “Victory Over Vice” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
“ From a material point of view, we are worth so little. The content of a human body is equivalent to as much iron as there is in a nail, as much sugar as there is in two lumps, as much oil as there is in seven bars of soap, as much phosphorus as there is in 2,200 matches, and as much magnesium as it takes to develop one photograph. In all, the human body, chemically speaking, is worth just a few dollars” (Page 49)
Of course, we are worth much more than that to our Creator. Our true worth is based on God who made us. It is only correct to say, “I am nothing” or “I am worthless” if I mean “nothing” or “worthless” without God. The respect we must have for ourselves comes from our respect for the one who made us. Remember we are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. This means that we are not allowed to treat ourselves like rubbish, otherwise we would have to treat each other as rubbish. But without God, we are rubbish, worth no more than a few dollars. Pride is a kind of insanity. What am I compared to God? I am less than a speck of dust, yet, God loves this speck of dust and Christ shed His blood for it. This means that I must treat other specks of dust – you – like gold dust, but only because of Christ.
To be consecrated in the truth means that we both belong to the truth and that we are committed to the truth. To accept this calling; to be instruments of the Truth, means that we are seeking God’s Will.
The question of how we come to know God’s Will does not have a simple answer. Not because God is complicated, but because we are. Jesus tells us that the Truth is love.
In the message of October 22 1990 he says;
“The Truth is LOVE. I am the Truth. Be witnesses for the Truth – receive the Holy Spirit of Truth.”
When we cannot love properly it may be because we are not open to the truth.
When we come to pray we need to be honest. Who am I really?
How easy it is for the mind to construct a false identity. This can happen quite easily when a person begins to become devout – when there has been a conversion experience – or when a person has begun to grow in prayer. St. Teresa of Avila warns us that one of the mistakes people make when they make a little progress in the spiritual life is thinking that they are ready to instruct others. So, we see the problems that are caused by some people who think that they have a calling to tell others how they should live, how they should pray – or, in our case, how they should interpret the messages of True Life in God. This is pride masquerading as love.
Another example: we should not assume that all our motives or intentions are perfect. Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother had undivided hearts. We are invited to be “pure of heart”. One meaning of this is single-minded, another meaning is totally dedicated. In a message from June 10 1994 Jesus said:
“My delight is in every pure heart: My joy is when I see your eyes seeking only heavenly things: My glory is when you come and tell me: ‘here I am…here I am’, offering your heart to me to transfigure it into my domain and then reign over it.”
To “seek heavenly things” does not mean flying from our responsibilities or indulging in fantasies. We must seek the Will of God in all things, and everything we do and suffer should be offered for the glory of God. When He gives us a job to do we must do it well. This can be anything from washing the dishes to building a cathedral. How will He judge the value of our work? Will the cathedral be of greater value if it is built out of vanity, or will he prefer to look on a shelf full of clean plates that have been washed as an offering of love?
Purity of Heart shows itself in concentration. When we are focused on something, we on the work we are doing. We are not perfect in this life; we will know perfection in Paradise. If we want to develop our powers of concentration we need self-discipline. We need order in our lives. The great monastic traditions remind us of this. Monks, enclosed nuns, and monasteries are more important than ever: important for the world around them. Benedictine monasticism had a profound effect on Western Europe. Monks of East and West remind us of the calling to be “pure of heart”: to be dedicated, obedient and disciplined. So, we need to recognise this truth first of all: we are usually imperfect in thought and action. We cannot assume that what we call inspirations from God are not somehow mixed up with or affected by our own faults and weaknesses. Since we usually do not know what is going on in our subconscious minds we cannot easily tell if we are being driven by some hidden compulsion. We have all suffered, to a greater or lesser extent, in our childhood; if not through our parents or brothers and sisters, then, because of experiences we had at school or amongst our childhood friends. Do we know with clarity how our past experiences are affecting us today?
I am not saying that all of us are deliberately half-hearted, nor am I saying that we are always conscious of being governed by our emotional needs ; what I am saying is that we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with God. The gift of discernment is not given to everybody, but if we pray about it and then choose someone to be a spiritual director there is a good chance that God will offer the gift to the one we choose. From time to time those who are hoping to progress in the spiritual life need good advice. It is foolish to pretend that we do not need help. It is worse than that, it is pride. As we grow in humility we become more aware of our faults, our weaknesses, our eccentricities. We come to know ourselves as God allows. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will highlight something. Perhaps it will happen after we have fallen into sin. Perhaps it will come in the form of a rebuke or correction from someone else. I have a friend who is a psychologist – a Doctor of Psychology. Sometimes he will say something that makes me sit up. For example, he may say something like, “Yesterday you were very preoccupied about something and it was making you very quiet”. I may say, “No, I wasn’t” and he will persist by saying, “What were you thinking about?” and then I may say, “It’s none of your business”. He might then say, “I’ll find out”. He may not find out the whole truth, but he will know something because he is trained to recognise certain things about people. Not long ago we were together in a hotel talking to a man from Scotland. Later my friend said to me, “that man had manic-depressive tendencies”. I was shocked. I said, “How did you know that?” My friend then went on to tell me his evidence. If I cannot hide my true self from a good friend, how can I hide from my Creator? Some people try, at least, to hide from themselves, but we can never hide from Christ.
If I said I was perfect I would either be a liar, or very spiritually immature, or insane. If it is possible for someone to be perfect in this life I suggest that he or she will not know it. Even if a person did know it you would never hear it from their lips. We are told to “be perfect” as the “Heavenly Father is perfect”, but even St. Paul, looking towards the end of his life, said,
“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like Him in His death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it on my own; but this one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be of the same mind” (Philippians 3: Verses 10 – 15)
Being consecrated to the Truth, means that we are called to unity. This is clear from the passage I quoted in the beginning. Jesus prayed that His disciples would be “sanctified in the truth” so that they could bring others to the truth that “all may be one”. I believe we can apply this to ourselves, as may all Christians called to play some part in the work of evangelisation. All those who are baptised are consecrated. All those who are conscious of being called to spread the truth about Jesus Christ are invited to accept some share in the work of evangelisation. We are invited to live in truth, which also means living in repentance. Accepting the truth about ourselves must involve the admission that we are sinners and the confession of sins. We can only begin to come together as one body, in humility. The Mother of Christ tells us, in a message dated September 23rd 1991:“The Keys to Unity are: Love and humility”
Accepting the call to live in truth we must respect each other and take each other’s hand. The truth will set us free. We do not come closer together by denying our faith. False ecumenism is useless. I cannot pretend, nor will I pretend, that I do not hold certain things to be true. For me this is a matter of divine faith. When I meet Christians from other denominations I do not expect them to pretend that they agree with me in all things. If there is no honesty how can there be any progress? We must be honest with each other. We must ask questions of ourselves and allow questions to be asked by others. What memories of the past am I carrying? Are they affecting our progress towards unity? Do I really need these memories? Can I ask forgiveness, or offer it? Why do I react against certain propositions and beliefs? What is in me, or my background, that prevents further dialogue? Do I have an axe to grind as we say in English, or a hidden agenda? Am I afraid of you; afraid of myself: afraid of the truth?
Challenging questions arise when we try to be open to the truth. Also, as we look at each other, converse and eat with each other, we recognise another aspect of being consecrated in the truth. We are made for each other. If Truth is Love then we are not just talking about propositions, doctrinal formulas and Creeds, we are talking about people. We belong together. To be dedicated to the truth must mean being dedicated to reconciliation and to unity. This is why we know that we cannot make progress unless we face ourselves as we are. I need to know who I am if I am to listen to you. I need to know what may be blocking my ears. Unless I am prepared to face the truth about myself how can I open my heart to another? We can walk in the same direction because we are following the same light. Sometimes it seems that we are walking far apart but at other times we are close enough to hold hands. We must increase those times when we hold hands and lessen those times when we are far apart. Discussion alone will not achieve this; we must become friends. Friends can be happy in each other’s company even when they don’t know what to say. When we do speak, let’s use words that build and never words that destroy.
What are we prepared to do to achieve the goal of unity? Are we prepared to tell the honest truth to ourselves? Are we prepared to let the Holy Spirit convict us of sin? Are we prepared to let Jesus Christ really be “the Way, the Truth and the Life”? If we are prepared to sacrifice something for the sake of unity let it be those things we have mixed up with our faith, those things which are not matters of faith but matters of fear. Let us lay down our fears, lay down our prejudices, even, in some cases, lay down our lives. First of all, let us ask God for the courage to be faithful to the Truth that we may never lie to ourselves, to each other, or to God.
On December 10th 1995, the Lord Jesus said:
“Peace be with you. Your aim must be to remain in the Truth and draw all people to the Truth and into My Kingdom. I am the Truth and My Kingdom on earth is My Church and My Church is My Body, which fills the whole creation; and the Life of My Church is My Holy Eucharist, the Way to eternal life. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; I am Love. Love Me and you shall live; through Love your soul will begin to look for heavenly things – the world can offer you nothing that belongs to Me. Cling to Me and you will remain rooted in Me and in this way you will win for yourself the eternal life which I promised you”.