- Faith and Worship
- How Do I...
A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: January 14, 2023
By Father Jerome Kodell, OSB
The shortest book in the New Testament and, in fact, the whole Bible is the Third Letter of John. It is not really a book but a letter of about 200 words. But this little text uniquely contains a powerful expression, “May we be co-workers in the truth.” (3 John 1:8).
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger used this as the motto on his coat of arms and later published a collection of daily meditations under the title, “Co-Workers of the Truth.” When this text of 3 John was used in the liturgy recently, its only appearance in the two-year cycle, a commentator pointed out that our culture today is confronting us with public figures inviting us to join them in being “co-workers in the lie.”
The lie may be a particular dishonesty, but the greater danger is the lie that there is no truth. Nothing is absolute, everything is relative. The internet is awash in fake news. The words of Isaiah come true again, “In falsehood we have found our hiding place” (Isaiah 28:15).
Take care how you hear. Whatever we listen to or read, we have to hear with discernment. Everything has to be measured against the truth we have already accepted as normative, in our case, the Christian and Catholic faith.
In a homily shortly before his election as pope, Cardinal Ratzinger described this phenomenon as the “dictatorship of relativism.” Lies have always been in circulation — that is nothing new — but the pervasiveness of dishonesty and the idea that there is nothing wrong with lying is something new.
What can we do about it? We cannot suddenly reverse a societal trend, but we can do our part to live responsibly within the society. This has always been our call. And to some extent, this has always been an issue. We have to sort out truth from untruth.
Jesus speaks to this issue, especially in sayings connected with the parable of the lamp. A lamp is placed where it can give light. “For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17; Mark 4:22).
Jesus’ next comment has come in two different forms: “Take care what you hear” (Mark 4:24); “Take care how you hear” (Luke 8:18). Take care what you hear. Most of what we listen to is our choice. Aside from the associations of family and job, we choose what we look at on the internet, our TV channels, our radio programs and our reading materials.
If we let ourselves be bombarded by sources of the lie, our resistance may gradually be eroded until we become ourselves co-workers in the lie. Take care how you hear. Whatever we listen to or read, we have to hear with discernment. Everything has to be measured against the truth we have already accepted as normative, in our case, the Christian and Catholic faith.
At norm is like a tuning fork in our head that lets us know when something jars and is out of tune. We may think that words are only words and cannot hurt us. But words are very serious. Whether we live by the word of God determines everything.
If we absorb lies into our system, they may begin to delve into our heart and spread into our thoughts and then our words, an old trick of the enemy in “poisoning the well.” Many people today are swaying in the wind with Pilate, confused: “What is truth?” Jesus promised us that if we remain in his word we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)