Telling the Truth in Dangerous Places

The two places recalled in today’s Mass readings are dangerous places for telling the truth. The three young men in Babylon tell the truth in the hearing of a king who wants all to bow down to him. They remain loyal to their God and they are thrown into a fiery furnace, but God keeps them unharmed.

Jesus speaks the truth in the temple in Jerusalem. His message is inflammatory, according to the temple leaders. They would rather he be silent or go somewhere else, preferably back to some little village in Galilee. But he speaks his truth and tells them they are not children of Abraham, but people looking after their own interests. Their dialogue as recorded in John’s gospel still crackles with controversy.

Jesus will be sent to death, but God will raise him up.

From what we know about the Jewish temple at that time it does seem like a place where you had to watch what you said. Though the Romans kept Judea on a loose leash, they didn’t like rebellions. Their representatives in the area were not the best  administrators then–Pontius Pilate really wasn’t good at managing Herod or his Jewish subjects. Historians say he was incompetent.

In the late 60’s some young Jewish leaders attached to the temple would massacre a detachment of Roman soldiers and bring Titus and his legions into Judea to level the temple and Jerusalem itself.

The temple was a volatile place; the temple area today still is. Martin Goodman’s book, Rome and Jerusalem, tells the story of the sad tale of Jerusalem’s destruction and the events that led up to it.

But we still have to speak the truth at dangerous times and places. Yes, even today. Not everyplace or everybody wants to hear it. Don’t mention things like the need for addressing the inequalities that exist in our world in some places.  How can we make sure people everywhere have enough to eat and drink and a place to live? How can we respect human life, from birth to death? How can we deal with the climate change? How can we live together as a human family in our world?

You can’t speak about issues like this in some places, even some of our churches. But if Jesus offers an example, we should.

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