What is Truth?

As Christians continue to trek through the season of Lent, we are reminded of the Holy Week that lays ahead: the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ in atonement for our sins. During Lent we fixate on sin, seeking to root it out of our lives. We fast. We pray. We offer a form of penance throughout the season in the hope that we may reorient our lives towards God in union with Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Yet, on Good Friday, a small event happens that is often overlooked as the passion narrative is read. Quid est veritas? What is truth? Pontius Pilate asks this question of the beaten and bloodied Christ standing before him. With the human authority of life and death in his hands, Pilate asks this question of the One who came to “testify to the truth.” (John 18:37) As many of us would be, Pilate is skeptical that this mere man, this mere Jew, could be the witness to reality.

Serving in New York City, it is easy to often consider the challenges that students experience in New York compared to other campuses around the country. There are more possible distractions, greater opportunities to become overwhelmed, and more challenging academic cultures surrounding them. However, all students relate to this one question: Quid est veritas? What is truth? From Pontius Pilate of old to students on campus, and everyone in between, we must each ask this question: What is truth? It is easy, like Pilate, to be skeptical of truth and from whom truth comes. Lent is an amazing season to refocus and assess our reliance and pursuit of truth in our lives.

In my encounters with students on campus, it is difficult to have a conversation about the nature of truth. They, as all of us, fear the suffering that could come from embracing any sort of truth. Now, to clarify, I by no means mean that we would be crucified or literally burned at the stake for embracing some opinion as our ancestors. This suffering isn’t literal: it is a perceived suffering. It is not the suffering that Christians in other nations suffer daily. It is the fear that others may disapprove. It is the fear that friends may turn against us and want nothing to do with us. But most on our minds is the fear that we may be wrong and someone may come along and contradict us—that we may not be perfect.

There is no certainty in this fear, yet this fear captivates students and graduates alike.

The Truth is Attractive

“Do you believe in the truth and that the truth is attractive?”

My team director posed this question to me one day as I recounted a conversation with a new student over lunch. It had become a trend in the conversations with students: I don’t believe in objective truth. All religion points to God. Christianity is just a nice way to live.

As a philosophy student, I feebly tried to bring up the ideas I had been reading in class and in leisure, but fear held me back. Frustrated with the inability for others to make a decision, I was resigned to vent my frustrations and pray for them. While I continue to pray for their minds and hearts to be transformed, my own self needed transformation as well.

Responding to my team director, “I believe in the truth, but I have little faith that the truth is attractive to these students.” Reflecting on this question, however, we are all meant to live in the truth. Our lives are ordered a certain way: fundamentally, to live with God in Eternal Life. All of our desires are part of a deep, inescapable longing for God. All of our choices should be ordered towards this reality. Our minds should be used to contemplate these truths of God and humanity. In essence, the truth is fundamental to our lives: it is essential to who we are as children of God.

Jesus is Truth

As Lent continues, we are reminded of another, mystical reality. Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, is Truth Incarnate. His death that we remember this Lent allows us to participate in the mystical body of Christ. The irony of Pilate is that he was asking the wrong question. He was asking “What is truth?” to Truth Himself.

Like Pilate, how we pursue truth matters greatly. Do we allow reason to guide our understanding? Do we allow faith to explain those things in which reason cannot explain? Are we willing to be wrong and admit that as we realize the truth? Are we willing to take insights from wise people who present truth logically, rationally?

A Call for Lent

This Lent, I encourage each of us to spend time reflecting on those places in our life where we have questions. Do we truly believe in Christ and all that He teaches us in Scripture and through the Church? Instead of settling in our confusion and doubt, read the Catechism, study scripture, or seek out wise spiritual counsel.

If it comes to admitting we are wrong on something, let it not stop us from running towards Truth full stride. Finding Truth is worth being wrong once in a while along the way.

Quid est veritas? What is truth?
Qui est veritatis? Who is truth?

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