This week, the Scriptures have been warning us not to avoid the truth. Today is no exception. Today we see that the way we tend to avoid truth is often through obfuscation, trying to confuse the facts. It’s a case of “the best defense is a good offense,” where we attack the truth wherever we see it addressing our lives and our mistakes.
The prophet Jeremiah takes the nation of Israel to task for this in today’s first reading. These are a people who have heard the truth over and over. God has not stopped sending prophets to preach the word. But the Israelites would not listen. They preferred to live in the world, and to attach themselves to the nations and their worship of idols and pagan gods. They had been warned constantly that this was going to be the source of their demise, but they tuned it out. They “stiffened their necks,” Jeremiah says, and now faithfulness has disappeared and there is no word of truth in anything they say: a scathing indictment of the people God chose as his own.
Some of the Jews are giving Jesus the same treatment in today’s Gospel. Seeing him drive out a demon, they are filled with jealousy and an enormous sense of inadequacy. These are religious leaders; they had the special care of driving away demons from the people. But they couldn’t: maybe their lukewarm faith made them ineffective in this ministry. So on seeing Jesus competent at what was their special care, they cast a hand-grenade of rhetoric at him and reason that only a demon could cast out demons like he did.
We will likely hear the word of truth today. Maybe it will come from these Scriptures, or maybe later in our prayerful moments. Perhaps it will be spoken by a child or a coworker or a relative or a friend. However the truth is given to us, it is up to us to take it in and take it to heart. Or will we too be like the Jews and the Israelites and stiffen our necks? No, the Psalmist tells us, we can’t be that way. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”