YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER. SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
HOMILY THEME: CONSECRATED IN TRUTH
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
We live in a world where falsehood and fake news thrive. Sensational news and rumours about people and events are constructed to appear so attractive. This embellishment of falsehood hides the poisonous effects, while the Internet and social networks make fake news to travel even faster. A distorted form of journalism known as Yellow Journalism is increasingly becoming popular. It is a form of journalism, which concentrates on publishing fake news to attract readers, viewer and listeners. This crooked journalism strives to increase circulation of its content just to make jumbo profits. The media organisations that are engaged in this practice fabricate lies, exaggerate news stories, promote dishonest reporting and construct misleading narratives. In addition, these organisations create highly sensational headlines, manipulate photos, videos and engage in propaganda to influence public opinion.
It is important to note that over two thousand years ago, St. Paul predicted an era when people will prefer fake news to reality and when they will turn away from sound doctrine and enjoy only what they want to hear and not necessarily that which is true (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Therefore, it is not surprising that the theme for this year’s World Communication Day is “Fake News and Journalism for Peace.” This message, written by Pope Francis exposes the danger of fake news and proffers suggestions on how to tackle disinformation, false news, yellow journalism and propaganda. The greatest danger about fake news is how it kills the reputation of people. According to Pope Francis, “The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict. Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth.”
Jesus was a victim of fake news. The gullible crowd who believed in the fake news and rumours, which his enemies had spread about him, falsely accused him. The crowd shouted: “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2). They had little or no evidence to substantiate their claims. Even at that critical moment of judgment, Jesus declared his mission to Pontius Pilate in the following words, “I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” The bewildered Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). Is there any truth-o-metre to assist us in gauging the truth? Pope Francis offers us some clues about how to identify the truth. He says, “We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.”
The Word Communication Day Message is closely related to the message in the Gospel of John where Jesus prayed for his disciples asking God the father to “Sanctify them in the truth… and that they may also be consecrated in truth” (John 17:17-19). Consecration means to be set apart for God and to share in the holiness of God. To be consecrated in truth means to be separated from anything that is untrue and to bear witness to the truth. No doubt, we desperately need that spirit of truth in a world filled with lies and deceit. It is not surprising that before leaving earth, Jesus promised to send to his disciples the spirit of truth to guide them (John 14:16-17). Through the years and to the present day, men and women of integrity opened themselves to the spirit of truth. For example, a prominent theologian Yves Congar in his lifetime declared, “I have consecrated my life to the service of truth. I have loved the truth and I still love it, as one loves a person.” Likewise, St. Athanasius also consecrated himself to the truth when he asserted, “If the world goes against truth, then Athanasius goes against the world.”
We all have to join in the battle against fake news and disinformation, knowing well that facts are sacred. We should join in mitigating the fabrication, distribution and consumption of fake news. Pope Francis calls on media organisations to eschew what he calls “Saccharine kind of journalism that refuses to acknowledge the existence of serious problems or smacks of sentimentalism.” The greatest weapon with which to confront fake news is truth and time will tell the truth. Experience has shown that time and truth are inseparable friends. We all have a sacred duty to promote whatever is good, true and beautiful. We are obliged to refute and rebut news that are fake and we must not share news that we are not sure of or any rumour that lack a credible source. According to Charles Peguy, “He who does not bellow the truth, when he knows the truth, makes himself the accomplice of liars.” You and I can pray with Jesus and consecrate our lives to the truth, saying “Vitam impendere vero (I consecrate my life to the truth). The truth shall indeed set us free.
7th Sunday of Easter, Year B/World Communication Day 2018/ John 17:11b-19