By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Palm Sunday 14th April 2019
The Greek Dramatist Aeschylus who lived from 525 BC to 456 BC, is described as the father of tragedy. It was he who wrote, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” In the culture wars of our current time, the central issue of the battle is whether there is such a thing as Absolute Truth or is truth relative, fluid and what each of us says it is? Your truth and my truth? This battle is part of the ongoing war between good and evil. Christians believe that victory in this war was won on the cross of Jesus, but evil is still making its presence felt.
In the events which led to Jesus’ crucifixion we encounter numerous examples of the flexibility of truth surrounding the refusal to acknowledge the true identity of Jesus.
The Jewish leaders fed their manufactured truth to false witnesses. Pontius Pilate was fed false allegations that Jesus was encouraging tax evasion. Herod was not concerned with the truth about Jesus so long as he could remain amused about him being ridiculed as a kingly pretender.
Truth was of no concern to the Roman and Jewish soldiers. They did not question orders, they obeyed them. The women of Jerusalem wept for Jesus but didn’t recognise that God’s judgment was falling on Jerusalem and its people, not Jesus. The crowds became a mob accepted a truth that was different from that which may have been held by individual members of it. Crowds are prone to doing this. Look at the crowds shouting and baying outside court rooms in recent times in Australia.
As the crowds in Jerusalem gazed on the crucified Jesus, they were only interested in witnessing something spectacular such as Jesus floating down from the cross. They were blind to the truth of God’s love inviting them to accept his love, forgiveness and salvation. It was only when the Roman centurion burst their bubble by declaring Jesus to be innocent and a Son of God, that they went home full of guilt and shame.
Pilate’s famous question asked of Jesus, “What is Truth?’, is asking whether truth is nothing more than what we want it to be, or whether it is absolute and unchangeable. Jesus asked his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, “who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” These questions are asking what people assume to be the truth of Jesus’ identity. The Church believes that it was Peter who spoke the absolute truth when he said, “You are the Christ.”
It is the question we should ask ourselves throughout this week.
What is the truth of the one who rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday?
Who cleansed the Temple of the buyers and sellers of sacrifices?
Who taught the people in the Temple about the Last Things?
Who said, “Do this in memory of me,” at the Supper in the Upper Room?
Who was crucified on Good Friday?
Who was raised from the dead on Easter Day?
Are your answers your truth or the truth that the Church believes God has revealed to us? Don’t be like the crowds by the Cross and leave it too late to recognise the true identity of the one who said he was the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Monsignor Entwistle was the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.