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Letter from Bishop Strickland for April 4, 2024

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we move through the Octave of Easter, and then continue with the Easter Season in this year of Our Lord 2024, it is critical that we turn more deeply than ever before to the Truth that is Jesus Christ. 


In these holy days of Eastertide, we have the opportunity to be renewed in Truth by Truth Incarnate, who is among us, and we must seek this renewal with all our hearts. The entire drama of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, brings into focus His greatest giftâ€"the gift of Himself as Truth Incarnate. We have just experienced the unfolding of Christ's saving love once again, and the ultimate rejection He experienced during His Passion. It is essential that we see clearly that the rejection of Jesus Christ, and ultimately His crucifixion, are at their very core a rejection of Truth. We must read the Gospel of His Passion through this lens. Jesus of Nazareth was rejected by both the religious and civil authorities of His time because He would not and could not deny Truth. 

I call our attention to two moments in the drama of the passion which I believe bring into clear focus this rejection of Truth. The first moment is Jesus' brief dialogue with Pontius Pilate when Pilate asks the question that has echoed through the ages, "What is Truth?" I am sure that many of us have often pondered the irony of Pilate asking Jesus this question. Pilate asks, "What is Truth?" as he looks Truth Incarnate in the face. Pilate expresses the question that is in every human heart. In our age especially, the challenge that this question brings takes center stage. The ills of our time spring from the fountainhead of our arrogant communal response to Pilate's question. 

Humanity today says there IS no Truth; there is only the malleable and ethereal desire of the human heart which can be changed at whim. It seems that our arrogance supersedes that of Pilate as Pilate dares to ask the question while looking into the face of Jesus. At least he does ask the question, and even in his question we may perceive a hint of discernment, a shadow of hope. However, as we survey modern man, we find a tidal wave of indifference. We have known Jesus Christ for two millennia. The civilization we enjoy is built on Him, even our acknowledgement of the year as 2024 is a nod to the moment Truth Incarnate came to us. We find, though, that we have moved beyond Pilate's question, and instead of asking Christ, we shout our own answer.

This brings me to the second moment from the Gospel accounts of Jesus' passion that we need to ponder. As Pilate gropes for an escape from the dilemma he faces, he gives a hint that he has already glimpsed the answer to his question. In some way, Pilate seems to fear who this Jesus of Nazareth may actually be, and so he seeks to wash his hands of the problem. Pilate asks the crowd if they want him to free Jesus or the criminal Barabbas, and the crowd roars back, "WE WANT BARRABAS."

This acclamation which cries out for Barrabas echoes through the ages and resonates in our time in devastating ways. The world and, tragically, even some within the Church live out an echo of the crowd's response to Pilate by rejecting Christ and the Truth He died to share. The voice of humanity today too often says: we do not want the Incarnate Truth that is Jesus Christ; we want the will of the mob that can transform a condemned criminal into a free man at whim. We want a changeable truth that we can reshape and redefine according to our own desires. The popular voice of humanity today says we want Barabbas not Christ; we want truth that can be made to order and altered as needed.

Even as we face the cold, hard reality of our desperate situation as modern man, we cannot despair. We must remember that regardless of humanity's perceptions or desires, Jesus Christ IS Truth Incarnate, and humanity's rejection of Him does not alter this Truth. For twenty centuries, the Catholic Church has proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ, and the Truth He incarnates has guided the human family in wondrous ways. Countless popes, saints, and theologians have explicated the innumerable truths that guide us in the Light of Christ. We must continue to mine this unchanging Truthâ€"this sacred Deposit of Faithâ€"so that we remain rooted in Jesus Christ and we are able to withstand this storm of moral relativity and modernism.

I point to the beautiful encyclical of Pope Saint John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, as one of the finest examples of this treasury of truth. His opening words profoundly instruct us, "The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: 'Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.' " (Ps4:6).

This phrase I highlight from St John Paul II states that with regard to man, Truth "shapes his freedom."  This is one of the most critical truths we must embrace anew as we counter the modern refrain that we can manipulate truth as we choose as this leaves us shackled to our own destruction and definitely not free.

In summary, let us keep in mind that the unchanging Truth that Jesus Christ embodies is exactly that, unchanging. It has the power to transform our world because Truth brings with it beauty and goodness. We must also acknowledge that stepping away from Truth ultimately destroys us. However, our merciful God continues to offer us the opportunity to return to Him and the Light of His Son.  Let us strive daily to seize this opportunity.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, Bishop Emeritus, Diocese of Tyle

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