It was cold and clear as we drove to church, following the highway through the green watered hills of Contra Costa under a dome of blue, the sun bright. The crispness of the day was welcome after storms during the week, and I entered our parish church with a lighter heart.
I have long been fascinated by the nature of truth, how we know what is true, how we can avoid lies, how to live a true life. My four novels (Pilgrimage, Offerings, Inheritance, Hana-lani) deal with these themes. My current novel-in-progress, The Magdalene Mystery, is a quest for, essentially, New Testament truth, how we know what really happened on that hill outside Jerusalem around 33 AD and the years after.
The Church is in the season of Pre-Lent, the few weeks before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the forty days leading up to the great festival of Easter. As I read the Epistle (II Corinthians 11:19-23) and the Gospel (Luke 8:4-15) for today (I missed hearing them for I was late to the liturgy, setting up in the Sunday School) I was reminded of the Christian’s obligations regarding the truth he or she has received.
Paul lists the many trials he endured for the sake of telling the truth of Christ and Luke recounts Christ’s parable about the sower. The parable tells of the differing places the seed can land – trodden and devoured on the wayside, withering on a rock, choked by thorns, bearing fruit on good ground. The seed is, of course, God’s word, that is, the truth about man and God. The lessons are meant, I believe, to encourage us in our witness to truth, that we must tell things as they are with charity, with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” We must be “they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
An honest and good heart. Patience. Ah, these were words that soothed my soul. For it has been a week of personal testing and there shall be more days and weeks of testing. It has been a time of breaches of trust, of ensnaring lies, of crooked paths not yet made straight. As I find my way through this jungle of untruth, I will try and recall these words of Christ, these true words, that with an honest and good heart, I must tell the truth with patience.
I mentioned last week T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “only the trying.” These words reflect this truth, that we must be patient, we must be honest, we must be of good heart.
I knew as I gazed upon the purple-tented tabernacle this morning, that it was really that simple. There was no need to worry, to over complicate these words given to me. At all times, in all places, I would be as true as best I can, I would be honest with a good heart, I would try to act in love. And when I fall, Christ will pick me up, and I will try again. For in the end, it is this witness, this seed sown in my heart, that must bear fruit. And it must bear fruit honestly, trying to be true, with no breach of trust, with no fraud. It must spring up from the watered soil of my heart and mind.
Trust. Truth. Such powerful words when linking people, when linking the body of Christ and the folks we meet day to day, week to week. Have I broken trust with anyone? Have I remained true? These are questions asked in daily confession, hourly reflection, minute to minute thoughts, as I walk the path of my life.
Human beings are naturally seekers. We long for something greater, something more holy, something truer than ourselves. We know we are bent, and we know we don’t always do the right thing. But we want to, and we seek to. We long to be true, to be whole, to be holy.
I had the joy this week of reading Susan Prudhomme’s debut novel, The Wisdom of Ambrose. For a few days this author transported me into a world less bent, where the creatures also tried to do right, to live true lives. For a few hours I walked with a wonderful bear named Ambrose through the redwoods of Northern California, alongside a protagonist who also sought for the truth about herself, wanting to understand who she really and truly was. It was a better world, a sweeter world, and I am grateful to have lived there for a time. The story reminded me of Milne’s Pooh, Lewis’s Narnia, and Tolkien’s Hobbits, and I felt some of the innocence of another time in my life, before the jungles, before the lies.
We must remain true, and as we try to share the truth we have learned and known, share the immense love of God who is all truth, we are encouraged and comforted by his word, not only in Scripture but in the Eucharist, for indeed, Christ himself is the Word present in the bread and wine. As I received this bread and this wine this morning I knew once again, that joy of truth. I knew I could re-enter the world. I knew I could continue trying, with an honest and good heart, with patience.