Will it still be possible to tell the truth? Or will we be forced, defenseless, to aid the victory of lies, today no longer sneaky and creeping, but always more obvious and brazen? We often risk becoming discouraged: the truth is obscured, trampled, derided. Just think of the propaganda in the last few decades from anthropology that has confused male and female identity: an identity which now rests only on the perception that a person has of himself. The risk is that in the very near future, it won’t be possible even to hint at the problem without risking being denounced or “socially excommunicated”, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his latest book-length interview. We ask ourselves how we will be able to resist, how will the Church be able to survive, to continue in its mission.
Two thousand years ago, however, it was no different from today: lies were present from the beginning.
You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy [him] and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present [day]. (Mt 28:2-15)
The greatest event in history, the Resurrection of Christ, had just happened and immediately a lie worked its way in. And it was a well-crafted lie, very plausible, with which they wanted to immediately suffocate the possibility of the Church being born. Yet this lie was not believed. Why not? How was Christianity born and how did it develop up until our times? And, today, what can defeat the falsity that dominates the world?
In the end, the question that we must answer is, once more, the one tragically expressed by Pilate: “What is Truth?”.
The answer is found in another question, that which all of history directs to Mary Magdalene and which echoes in the Easter liturgy with these words: Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via? Tell us what you saw!
What defeated the lie was the witness of a fact: having seen the man Jesus Christ risen from the dead. No deception can ever crush the certainty of one who has seen with his own eyes, touched with his own hands, heard with his own ears, and adhered with all of his freedom to the most resounding event in the history of the world.
From that event, of a man come back to life with his own body, derives the absolute value of every human person: his dignity; his uniqueness; his need to be respected as he is, in his physical and spiritual identity, from conception until natural death. And it is from faith in that event that derives the ability to judge all of reality and a courage able to oppose any violence, even that which hides itself behind the mask of freedom.
Which characteristics must this testimony have, today as in the time of Jesus? The first is expressed well by Marta Busani in her book on the origins of Gioventù Studentesca [“Student Youth”; the high-school branch of Communion and Liberation] in which she recalls that the novelty brought by Fr. Giussani was his insistence on the communal witness of Christians in their milieu: “Being Christians is a place, a community”. That is, at its core, the content of Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “so that they may all be one…that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). The world, in order to believe, needs to see with its own eyes the unity of those that have seen and believe. That is why it is necessary that Christians be recognizable within society and that there be places where this presence is brighter.
The second characteristic is evoked by the great saint Giuseppe Freinademetz. He spoke five languages including Mandarin, but when he arrived in China, in Macao, he discovered that “the only language that the natives understand is charity”. Only a gaze of love and mercy towards the people that we meet makes the testimony that we bring convincing, all the while conscious that among the works of mercy we cannot forget education and counsel to those who live in doubt and ignorance, because “[charity] rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6).
The third characteristic, that which made the first Christians credible, was their willingness to die for that truth that they had met. Today just as then, the world needs to encounter men and women ready to make the greatest sacrifices for love of their brethren and of that Truth which makes them so.
Emmanuele Silanos is vicar-general of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo. In the photo, a moment from the Communion and Liberation university students’ vacation in the United States.