Hearing the Difficult Truth
Reflecting on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Three Days after Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 20
Old Testament: Habakkuk 3:2-15
Gospel: Luke 18:31-34
God of the living, through baptism we pass from the shadow of death to the light of the resurrection. Remain with us and give us hope that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit who gives life to our mortal flesh, we may be clothed with the garment of immortality, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is difficult to embrace truth we dislike. Humanity has always been that way, but perhaps now it is worse than ever. With twenty-four hour cable news, the Internet and social media, we are on information overload. We are not starved for information, but often lack wisdom in processing what is true and what is false. It is no wonder that we tend to reject out of hand those perspectives, those opinions we don’t like. Instead of considering that we might be wrong, we simply dismiss it as fake news. We are often tempted to judge the truth of something by whether or not it appeals to us.
Confirmation bias is a problem for everyone. the University of Texas defines confirmation bias as “the tendency of people’s minds to seek out information that supports the views they already hold. It also leads people to interpret evidence in ways that support their pre-existing beliefs, expectations, or hypotheses.” While confirmation bias is a temptation, it can be dangerous when taken to an extreme. When we no longer read, watch, and listen to be informed, but only confirmed, we are seeking out only those in our tribe that agree with us. Whether it is being a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or conservative, or by whatever other labels we may identify ourselves, the truth is sacrificed on the altar of always having to be right.
The disciples had confirmation bias when it came to their understanding of the Messiah and it was almost impossible for them to comprehend that Jesus’ understanding of messiahship was completely different.
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (Luke 18:31-34).
The apostles had grown up going to the synagogue and learning that the coming deliverer was going to conquer Israel’s enemies with military might and bring God’s kingdom in victory. For Jesus, his mission looked nothing like that. Jesus’ victory will come through the defeat of the cross. No wonder Luke tells us that “they understood nothing about these things.”
Two thousand years later, Christians still struggle to hear the difficult truths from Jesus—love your enemies, forgive seventy times seven, the last will be first, and blessed are the poor. Just like those first disciples, such teachings seem contrary to the way the world works—might makes right, look out for number one, and no good deed goes unpunished. And yet, what the world deems as an impossible way to live, Jesus puts forward as the kingdom way of life, where truth not only matters, but sets people free.
Hearing God’s truth may be difficult, but it is the way to salvation.
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