In this passage of John, Jesus is speaking to several groups of listeners. First he is speaking to the many who have come to believe in Him. Second He is speaking to the Jews who have come to believe in Him. Third he is speaking to those who did not believe in Him and immediately tried to kill Him.
To these latter, Jesus says that if they embrace the truth it will set them free. And He is the truth and they will be free. Their response to Jesus was that they were children of Abraham and they have never been slaves. They have never surrendered to those who tried to enslave them. It is convenient for these people to erase from their memory their enslavement from: Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Syrians, and most recently the Romans.
Jesus tells them if they accept Him they will be accepting the Truth. He is the truth. Truth will free them from sin, which is the denial of Jesus as the Son of God. Truth is the presence of God in Jesus. Jesus comes from God Jesus is sent by God! One’s relationship with God depends upon one’s relationship with Jesus.
Several years ago, the George Gallop Religious Research Center in Princeton, New Jersey published a survey asking people if God spoke to them today? 44% of the people said “Yes”, 50% said “No.” 48% of those who said “Yes” were Protestant, 43% were Catholic. When asked “How” does God speak to you? 60% said through Sacred Scripture, and 30% said “through others!” As John’s Gospel has Jesus reminding His listeners they are responsible for the accuracy of their hearing and the truth of our understanding. Jesus is reminding His listeners, as the Ancient Celts said “Life’s journey is a journey into the truth.” The Celts also remind us when speaking of one who has died that “Now they know the Truth!”
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the formation director and local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.