"The things we don't know won't hurt us," some say. On the contrary, our lack of knowledge about many things may lead to our early demise. What we eat every day, for instance, may contain ingredients the human body cannot process. How much liver damage is caused by too much "high fructose corn syrup," we may never know, but I find, to my horror, that many of my favorite things are laced with it - the bread I eat with the jam I put on it, cookies, graham crackers, chocolates, even processed meats. And the liver can't handle fructose, I'm told. At least manufacturers are now required to list their ingredients on the label.
Ignorance of the things that can harm the body is one thing. Ignorance of things that are spiritually harmful is quite another. We may know only on Judgment Day how much harm is now being done to our souls by the poison of heresy. TV programs, movies, books, articles, sermons, Novus Ordo “liturgies”, retreat conferences, even the “encyclicals" of the “conciliar popes”, are laced with heresy, but most of us are too ignorant to detect it. And they are not required by law to provide us with a list. We must have a healthy fear of heresy, which can destroy the soul.
Fr. Hugh Thwaites, S.J., writing in the Homilitic and Pastoral Review (November, 2001) remarks about those who attend the Novus Ordo Mass: "They may no longer have the horror and dread of heresy which the first Christians learned from the letters of St. Paul and St. John, and which I think Catholics living in today's pagan environment need if they are to maintain the purity of their faith."
The saints, like St. Therese of Lisieux, refused to touch works which were suspected of being heretical. St. Augustine writes in his Confessions: "O Truth, Truth, how inwardly even then did the marrow of my soul sigh for thee when, frequently and in manifold ways, in numerous and vast books, [they - the Manichean heretics] sounded out thy name though it was only a sound! And in these dishes - while I starved for thee - they served up to me, in thy stead, the sun and moon, thy beauteous works - but still only thy works and not thyself… But I was hungering and thirsting… after thyself the Truth, 'with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning'" (Confessions 3.6.10).
In today's Gospel even the Pharisees attest to the truthfulness of Jesus Christ: "Master, we know that you are truthful, and that you teach the way of God in truth…" Of course, they were unwilling to accept Truth even when it was staring them in the face.
Heresy is defeated by love of truth. Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., comments on the Masses of the last Sundays of the Church's year, which deal with the end of the world and the Last Judgment: "The diminution of truth is evidently to be a leading peril of the latter times; for, during these weeks which represent the last days of the world, the Church is continually urging us to a sound and solid understanding of truth, as though she considered that to be the great preservative for her children…
"When Christianity first shone upon mankind," he says, "it found error supreme mistress of the world. Having to deal with a universe that was rooted in death, Christianity adopted no other plan for giving it salvation than that of making the light as bright as could be; its only policy was to proclaim the power which truth alone has of saving man, and to assert its exclusive right to reign over the world. The triumph of the Gospel was the result." (The Liturgical Year).
So, truth - the truth of the Gospel - has an exclusive right to reign over this world. Dom Gueranger would have a hard time understanding why the church of Vatican II and the conciliar popes found it necessary to relinquish this exclusive right, and to acknowledge the equal rights of those who teach error, and why we now have "profound respect" for the philosophies of this world and the "doctrines of devils," to use a phrase from St. Paul (1 Timothy 4:1). He would have recognized it as one of the heresies that have had disastrous consequences for the Church in our time. His words apply here as he laments what he saw happening even in his own time:
"But now, with the connivance of those whose Baptism made them, too, children of light, error has regained its pretended rights. As a natural consequence, the charity of an immense number has grown cold in proportion; darkness is again thickening over the world, as though it were in the chill of its last agony…
"The children of light who would live up to their dignity, must behave exactly as the early Christians. They must not fear, nor be troubled: but, like their forefathers and the apostles, they must be proud to suffer for Jesus' sake, and prize the word of life as the dearest thing they possess; for they are convinced that, so long as truth is kept up in the world, so long is there hope for it."
St. Augustine, lover of truth, writes further in his Confessions: "The love of truth is such that those who love something different pretend that the object of their love is truth. And since they hate to be deceived, they hate being convinced that they are deceived. They therefore hate the truth through their love of what they believe to be the truth. They love it when it shines, they hate it when it reproves. They don't want to be deceived and they want to deceive, loving it, therefore, when it is revealed, but hating it when it reveals them... Yet, even in this unhappy situation, (man) prefers the enjoyment of truth over the enjoyment of falsehood. He will therefore be happy when he enjoys without obstacles or anxiety the only Truth, thanks to which all things are true" (10, 23, 34).
"For where I found truth, there found I my God, Who is the Truth itself, which from the time I learned it have I not forgotten. And thus since the time I learned Thee, Thou abidest in my memory; and there do I find Thee whensoever I call Thee to remembrance, and delight in Thee. These are my holy delights, which Thou hast bestowed upon me in Thy mercy, having respect unto my poverty (10.24.35).
Jesus Christ, our Way, our Truth, our Life, have mercy on us in our poverty! May we know the Truth that makes us free!