Truth & Freedom
By Sr. Miriam Loveland, SHM
At a given moment, Jesus looked at the Jews who began to believe in Him and said to them, “…you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8:32). Upon hearing that phrase, many were indignant and began to dispute with Him saying that they had never been slaves of anyone. In other words, they didn’t need to be set free. Jesus was pointing out a much deeper slavery than the physical one, and a much more dangerous one. Nowadays, there is constant talk about freedom and about reclaiming it where it isn’t found. It would not be easy to find someone who does not desire it, and yet there are very few who really reach it. They don’t obtain it because they’ve lost sight of the intrinsic connection that freedom has with the truth. Without the truth, you cannot live in freedom, because it would mean living in a false, inconsistent, and unreal world.
Even though it may seem like an obvious topic, the relativistic society today has very much obscured the capacity that man has to recognize the truth. Moreover, many times it isn’t even willing to admit that it exists. One of the phrases that you hear when it comes to striking up a conversation about a religious topic is “that’s true for you, but my truth is different.” Surely, that sounds familiar. Sometimes, this response seeks to respectfully cover up a person’s indifference concerning the topic, or perhaps his refusal to want to change. However, many other times we never even think that precisely the topic brought up doesn’t admit a plurality of opinions point blank: either it’s true or it’s not. Addressing the topic of the existence or nonexistence of the truth can shed light.
It’s always helpful to begin with its definition. St. Augustine said that what is true is “what is.”
At first glance, this may seem confusing, but it simply means that something is true when it corresponds to reality. For example, the statement: “The country of the United States exists” is true or false depending on its correspondence with reality. In reality, it either exists or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t exist, then the phrase would be false. If it does exist, it would be true. There’s even more. It would be true or false aside from my ability to prove it or not: even before discovering the continent, that land existed. Therefore, the truth is that which corresponds to the reality of things in themselves. Precisely because of this, it’s something that’s discovered – not the fruit of invention. America doesn’t exist because someone discovered it; rather, precisely because it was there, it was able to be discovered.
This is part of the reason why Jesus said to the Jews that the truth would set them free. Not living in the truth is not living in reality, and the one who lives in a lie can’t exercise his freedom to choose the good: he’s slave to the illusion that he’s created or that’s been imposed upon him. There are a lot of things that are objects of opinion or personal taste, such as vanilla or chocolate flavored ice-cream. There are a lot of topics that are objects of discussion because of the plurality of legitimate possibilities that exist, such as the best way to govern a country. However, in the face of opinions and discussions, man finds himself before an objective reality, and able to rationalize, discover, and deepen in everything that exists. Within this field of reality and truth, lies the question about the existence of God: whether He exists or not, there isn’t any space for opinions and there isn’t any question that has greater transcendence for the life of man.
©HM Magazine; nº197 July-August 2017