March 30: What Is Truth?

by Joan Castagnone

When I was a child, maybe seven or so, I was in court. The judge asked me if I knew what a lie was and I answered calmly, with absolute certainty, “Yes. It’s a mortal sin.”

He asked the question several times and I began to wonder, with some impatience, if he knew something I didn’t. Later, detectives said they were sorry, but “It’s her word against his.” They said it like there was equivalence. My word. His word. But it’s not. The truth-scale most often tips in favor of the bigger, stronger one.

For the first time, I had a glimmer of the idea that what we think of as truth is infinitely malleable. Lies and betrayal swirl around Jesus during his last day. High priests believe they own the truth. Peter denies its very existence.

But in the midst of this terrifying cacophony, Jesus says to Pilate, who is either dithering or searching, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

And Pilate asks, “What is truth?”

Good question. One I should ask myself more often. After that day in court, I was never as sure of the truth again. But maybe if I learn to belong to the truth instead of thinking the truth belongs to me, I will feel some trace of the assured stillness, faith and honesty of