What is truth?
Truth will set you free, yes, but then what is truth? Based on Christianity and yet from a universal perspective, we may remember this is a question Pilate asked Jesus and Jesus remained silent. Sometimes silence tells more than thousand words. Truth is fundamentally beyond all the words: You have to live the truth, not preach it. Truth defined by words is a dogma. However, as Jesus said, God should be worshiped in spirit and truth (John 4:23): not only by heart but reason as well!
And freedom? We are nowadays free concerning the truth: We are no longer bound to specific church or religion, people are not burnt at the stake as heretics. Yet for some people "truth" is something that chains their minds, and then it was usually given from without; in freedom truth is found only within. Intolerant "truth", which tries to force itself to others, does not respect other people's freedom and is therefore against the nature of Truth. People are free to stay imprisoned. Nobody in this world possesses the absolute Truth, only partial truths, because we are limited beings in God's Infinite Consciousness.
Jesus Christ said "I am the way and the truth and the life": These three concepts belong together. Truth is progressive, always going forward, growing - unlike strict dogmatic "truths". And if you don't realize the truth by living it, it's just a lifeless theory. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Movement is a nature of the Holy Spirit, as well as that of freedom; not stagnation. It is calling us to constant renewal - resurrection through death. This "I AM" is the true essence of man, one with Christ.
Truth and love
See Acts 2: The winds of freedom are blowing, there is a same spark of life in each individual. Everyone must come to know one's own truth by oneself. It appears as a "native tongue", different tongue for each one. Yet we may understand each other when we speak the tongue of love, heart to heart.
Isn't our life life of Spirit in us? And this Spirit won't take away our freedom! (Rm.8:14-15). English word "freedom" is derived from Sanskrit verb priyia, meaning at the same time "to love" and "to be loved". As substantive it means "my beloved". Truth and love go hand in hand (2 John 1:3).
First and foremost you have to be true to yourself, even if an angel came from heaven to preach another truth - or the holy scripture was opposed to your personal experience of truth. What kind of Truth would force you to live in a lie and deceive yourself? Then you deny God who made you "unto His image". St. Peter disowned Jesus and yet he had another chance. On earth even Jesus needs to hear from another person: "You know I love you." Jesus asks this same old and always new question: "Do you love me?" and He will ask us to take a good care of those entrusted to us.
What about you? Do you love Christ? Then why wouldn't you love yourself! When you feel quilty, you don't hate your sins but you hate yourself. A man has to have a sense of being worth of something and therefore worthy of being loved. Only if you are able to love yourself, you are able to love your neighbor. Only if you are able to love your neighbor, you are able to love your God. Loving your neighbor as yourself, also applies to different opinions and views of life: potential antipathy must not reverse or weaken love - mockery or controversy is out of the question!
The law and the prophets
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Mt.22:37): Heart is a center of individual personality - to love God with all your heart means to love Him at the deepest level of one's personal identity. It also means to accept unconditionally everything life brings along. This is the attitude of Jesus: "Not what I will, but what you will" (Mk.14:36). Ama et fac quod vis: Love, and do what you will" (St. Augustine).
The Sermon on the Mount - Manifesto of Jesus - contains its own summary, a principle we call the golden rule (Mt.7:12) which "sums up the law and the prophets" just like "all the law and the prophets hang on the double commandment of love". General neighborly love is based on Leviticus, chapter 19. Jesus interpreted this as active challenge (Lk.6:31 and Mt.7:12). When rabbi Hillel, one of the most important interpreters of Judaism, who lived about one generation before Jesus, was asked to explain Juidaism, he said: "You mustn't do to others what you don't want them do to you." Jesus took this message one step further by telling to do good to others. Rabbies interpreted neighborly love in negative perspective: "Don't do!" Jesus taught active, unconditional attitude: Do, love, lend, pray, have mercy! Even if today we were good and compassionate to others because we are told to do that, eventually it will become an inner necessity.
Human soul is reason, will and feeling, and "with all your soul" refers to comprehensive orientation towards the object of love with three soul faculties. Mind in turn stresses the intellectual element included in loving God. "Love the Lord, your God, with all your strength" means: Surrender completely! "He must become greater; I must become less." (Jh.3:30)
Jesus taught that the greatest commandments of the law ought to be fulfilled: to love God above all and your neighbor as yourself. The latter commandment is obligatory because of the first one: You can't love God without loving His will which tells you to love a neighbor, including an enemy. Love your neighbor as yourself: Give that you may receive, receive that you may give! Commandment to love your neighbor is found in Leviticus 19:18, and commandment to love God is found in Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus set latter one before neighborly love, and this is important notion: It's hard to love a difficult neighbor before your heart is filled with God's love. As a parable of the Good Samaritan tells us, a question is not "who is my neighbor?" but rather: "to whom I ought to be a neighbor?" And the answer is, your neighbor is everyone who needs your help, despite of language, religion, nationality etc.
Law of the Old Covenant was written on stone tablets and hearts of men also turned to stone. New law is written on their hearts (Hebr.8:10, 10:16; Dtn 30:14-15) Jesus didn't obey certain rules and followed detailed plan. He loved the Father and not for a moment turned His eyes from Him. There was an on-going dialogue. Old law leaned on outer sacrifices, inner law rests upon unique sacrifice of Christ. Covenant requires a certain equality: Partners commit to each other in mutual dedication:
"What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet." (Psalm 8:4-6)
Jesus's relationship with His loved ones is concentrated around the question in the gospel according to Matthew (16:15): "Who do you say I am?" Jesus could have proved His divinity or even forced His disciples to approve who He is. But love cannot be governed by men. Jesus told us to find love. Its characteristic was love above passion and friendship, also for enemies and persecutors. This love is anything but ready model of conduct; it doesn't expect to be well received. Love for enemies is based on the love of God (Luke 6:35).
"If the God you believe in hates all the same people you do, then you know you've created God in your own image." - Anne Lamott
And love one another, as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34 and 15:12): This is a new commandment, because it is much more demanding than to love another "only" as your neighbor - a precious human being or a fellow Christian - to respect an image of God within one another, teaches Thomas Keating, and continues: To love one another as Jesus loves us means to love one another in all our humanity - individuality, as advocates of different opinions, with collitions of personalities... It means we don't stop showing love whatever withdraws us from love. It raises ideal of love to the next level. Love won't look for its equal but makes its object equal. For these two, brotherly kindness and love (2. Peter 1:7), must accompany one another. Christianity brought forth a new value - the absolute and complete own justification of an individual, which St. Paul formulates as follows: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:28). Matt.5:21-22: "You fool!" You shouldn't question the human dignity of your neighbor. Nobody is a fool and worthless. God made us his friends, not his servants, as he said: "You are my friends if you do what I command." (Jh.15:14)
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mt.5:7): This beautitude realizes a new commandment of Jesus. Merciful are those whose caring starts to expand beyond the circle of family and the loved ones, to larger community, finally reaching the whole humankind, past, present and future. Father "has entrusted all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22) and to Him another name for judgment is Grace, says Henri J.M. Nouwen. By healing people Jesus made love of God visible. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love" (Jh.15:9); Love of Jesus for us is a full manifestation of the love of God for us, since Jesus and the Father are one (see Jh.14:10).
Fatherhood of God, Community of mankind
Jesus strongly emphasized the Fatherhood of God; Everyone is more than a servant or creature of God: Each individual is a child of God. At the last supper Jesus revealed not only his deep relationship with the Father, but also how that relationship means to Him a perfect union or unity with the Father. Jesus told everyone to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. He assured His listeners that God cared for each individual. He taught that these two concepts, Fatherhood of God and community of mankind, are inseparable. To love and serve mankind is to love and serve the Father (Mt.25:24-46). All Christian good works are motivated by love for Jesus.
"If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him" [...] "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." [...] "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me." (Jh.14:7, 9, 11)
He also said: "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." [...] "The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me." (Jh.14:28, 31).
And He prayed: "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one." (Jh.17:11)
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:34-35): It is a starting point of Christianity and a characteristic of a Christian. Give your life for others and you will find a meaning for your life ("Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Mt.10:39) - die in order to rise from the death. The spirit of human life is realised if one can live and act as an instrument of self-surrendering love. Love for God and love for men led Jesus to the cross. You can never exaggurate love. On the contrary, love is always in debt (Rm.13:8).
Love is enough for itself
When we love, we come closer to the heart of God and our true self. Love is not for us but for others. When we reach for love and experience love, creative forces flow into the world. It won't fill us but flows through us. We cannot hold it back. Once we recognize this love in the world, we recognize it in ourselves, and can express it to others. The final result of the divine life in us will be: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." (1 John.4:7) Yet often we may see that Christian love hasn't changed hearts but hearts have changed Christian love: Usually it is twisted fanaticism to convert others - pure egoism disguised in love. Word "love" is almost as often abused as "God".
Philipp Jakob Spener in his book "Pia Desideria" (first published in 1675) refers to the testimony of Jerome, how "the beloved John" in old age used to say nothing much more to his disciples but: "Children, love one another". His disciples and listeners finally were bored to hear always the same thing, and asked him why he all the time said it. Then he answered: "Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and if it is fulfilled, that's enough."
In the 7th century St. Isaac of Syria, after the years he studied the gospel according to John and meditated upon the sentence "God is love" (1 John 4:8), he came to conclusion that "God can only give His love". John the apostle is sometimes called the apostle of love and his gospel is governed by the principle of love. Love of God and love for God, apart from fear of hell as well as hope of heaven: Love is enough for itself. St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) taught that love is the only way to God; Fear of punishment or hope of reward do not represent loving God but self-love. God cannot be loved directly, but by serving suffering fellowmen.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est; Where is love, there is God. Fr. Sergius Bulgakov thought that God needs the world. If God lived without the world, He would live only for Himself and wouldn't exist without Himself. Thus God would not exist at all, since existence means to exist for another. God as Trinity is social and communal God. God is Trinity because more than one is needed to show love. What goes with a man, goes with God too. He is not a closed self-love, but Trinity, open and receiving. Diversity in unity. Love which is shared. Father gives His life to the Son, Son gives it back to the Father, and Spirit is precisely this given, outpoured life. He is the given body and the outpoured blood. Love is the power that made God send His Son on earth and then raise Christ back to heaven. Soul can love God through the Holy Spirit which is bestowed by God Himself.
"No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (Jh.10:18)
"Love will be completed, when it is not merely an inner conviction but the way of life" said St. Bernard of Clairvaux. And Meister Eckhart might have added: "Our works don't sanctify us but we sanctify our works." Faith that won't bring forth deeds of love, doesn't make man more righteouss than a demon:
"But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (James 2:18-19)
According to Kallistos Ware, Hell is myself without communion with other people. Dante inhabited Hell with people who were still living on earth, because even if their bodies were among the living, their souls were in Hell. Heaven is a perfect harmony with God, Hell is disharmony; Purgatory is a state of soul who struggles to rise from one state to another.
Incarnation and Communion
Love for Christ unites us: We participate with common love of Christ - through Jesus we love one another; He is in us, amidst of us, and together we are within His mystical body. As Christians we are in love with love, says Josemaría Escrivá. Incarnation and Communion are two manifestations of God's enormous, self-giving love. As many as there are breads on the altars around the world today, they are one bread. The Body of Christ. We are what we eat. Like single grains gathered together make one bread, so is the one Body of Christ formed in unity of love. Also wine is made by pressing single grapes into juice. Secret of unity! Small, minuscule gifts of men become the greatest gift of God, who humbles for love! Love is like the Host, says Anthony de Mello: I receive the whole Christ, you receive the whole Christ, so does the one next to you and everyone after him. In a small piece of bread is concentrated the whole presence of God! Yet we are able to give only a small part of ourselves to Him. Only God can give Himself completely; Giving is His nature. He comes to us wherever we are; He loves us just the way we are.
The ultimate message of the Scripture might be summerised like this: You are not alone. God exists and He is for you. Jesus sums up the message as follows: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt.28:20)
Few more thoughts from Anthony de Mello: Philosopher asked: "What is the meaning of creation?" "Loving" said the teacher. Later he said to his disciples: "Love was before creation. After creation we love. When love is fulfilled, creation ceases and love stays forever."
"What is the greatest sin in the world?" "It is a sin of that person, who thinks other people are sinners."
"What is love?" - "Perfect fearlessness." - "What do we fear?" -"Love."
To love your neighbor, stop hating yourself.
"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." (Rm.13:8)
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rm.8:38-39)