Satyagraha and the Spirit of Truth

The readings for the Sixth Friday of Easter encourage those who seek justice and peace.
Paul has a vision and Jesus tells him: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.” How often Jesus spoke these words to his followers. How often we forget and get discouraged. My wife reminds me often that people do not want to hear about truth and peace and justice. Yet, we must keep speaking. The nonviolent Jesus is speaking through us. Silence is not an option.
In John, Jesus is going away. Imagine how fearful the disciples are. They thought he had gone away once before and they were thrown into doubt and confusion. Now Jesus is assuring them. He promises to send the Spirit of Truth:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.”
The great reversal promised in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes has begun. Seeing the greed and the global disrespect for the sacredness of life, we weep and mourn. We weep and mourn while commodity speculators drive up the prices of what are staple foods for the majority of the world’s people. Oil barons reap unconscionable profits and the Wall Street Journal defends their profiteering. The killing goes on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur and Palestine. Yes, there is much to mourn. We weep as Jesus wept because the world knows not the peace of Jerusalem—the peace of the nonviolent Creator and One Sent by the Creator.
This all brings me back to Gandhi and Jesus as we continue on The Narrow Path. Gandhi said that his life was “An Experiment in Truth.” Gandhi spent his life seeking truth. Realizing that the negative word “nonviolence,” even passive resistance, did not do justice to what he was about, He coined the term satyagraha—Truth Force. Satyagraha is much more than a tactic for bringing about change. It is about discipline and personal purification. It is about pursuit of the truth in peaceful ways—ways designed to convert (not defeat) the opponent, the very one doing the evil being resisted. The spiritual discipline and rigor associated with satyagraha makes some question whether it can occur on a wider scale. Yet, we know that it does. Witness the work of Jesus. Witness the work of his disciples—Martin Luther King, Romero, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Berrigan, Franz Jaggerstatter and many others.
The Gospels teach us about truth—aletheia. The ultimate truth is Jesus and his Gospel. It stands unwavering, unchanging amid the passing fancies of the moment. It stands for conformance to reality—the Ultimate Reality, the Mystery that causes the universe to flame forth. Jesus has gifted us with the Spirit of Truth—THE Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth teaches us much more than our church doctrine. The Spirit of Truth teaches us about Jesus—the Nonviolent One Sent by the Creator.
The ultimate reality for Christians is that Jesus was nonviolent and that all else hinges on this. Jesus came to liberate the oppressed, to give sight to the blind, to cure the physically and spiritually ill, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to shelter the homeless, to proclaim the year of Jubilee debt relief, to care for the sick and to visit the imprisoned.
Pilate, the bureaucratic Roman cynic, asked Jesus, “What is truth?” The Spirit of Truth who will flame forth anew on Pentecost will teach us what is true. The Spirit will instill in us Gospel values which are so often at odds with the society in which we live. We are about life and love and truth and justice and peace and mercy in a culture of doom and death and violence and exploitation and greed and consumerism. We are about TRUTH. We are about LIFE—life eternal now. “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.”
We dare not keep silent. We dare not be afraid. We are empowered by the Paraclete, the Helper, the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit is Truth Force personified. Our weeping will be turned into joy, the joy only the Spirit can give.

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