Suffering for Truth and Justice (Commandment 8)

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:10). Pope Francis notes:

Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for “whoever would save his life will lose it” (Matthew 16:25). In living the Gospel, we cannot expect that everything will be easy, for the thirst for power and worldly interests often stands in our way… the Beatitudes are not easy to live out; any attempt to do so will be viewed negatively, regarded with suspicion, and met with ridicule… Jesus calls us blessed when people “utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). At other times, persecution can take the form of gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous. Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems: that is holiness (Gaudete et Exsultate, 90-91,94).

This Beatitude reinforces the 8th Commandment, Do not bear false witness against your neighbor, which shows us the value of truth because God is the source of all truth and his Word is truth (Psalm 141:6; see CCC 2465). Christ himself is the Truth (John 14:6), who came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), which will set all of us free (John 8:32).

Jesus praises Nathanael when he is sincere, even when his comment about Jesus’ hometown was so negative: “Nathanael said… ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ … [Jesus] said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!’” (John 1:46-47). It is refreshing to meet people who are straightforward and sincere, who don’t pretend to be someone they aren’t. Those who try to manipulate us with flattery is not only distasteful, they play with our emotions in order to control us or others—this does violence to the truth, just as does lying, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships” (CCC 2486).

Being truthful and sincere makes us children of God, who is Father of the Truth, whereas lying makes us children of “the father of lies” (John 8:44), the devil. None of us would want that! All lying is offensive, but it is especially grievous in the context of justice, when our false witness (perjury if under oath) causes harm to another. It may get us “out of trouble,” but often by falsely blaming another, injuring their reputation, or causing them to be unjustly punished for something they didn’t do. It may also cause the guilty to go unpunished. Sins against the 8th Commandment include rash judgments, detraction—the unnecessarily revealing hidden facts about someone. These are sins against the truth and cause harm by failing to put the truth in its full context.

Social conventions are not considered lies but are ways of being polite. For example, if one is asked, “how are you?” “Fine, thank you” is not a lie even when one is under the weather or one has just experienced something awful. We don’t have to burden other people with all our ailments and sufferings when they are just trying to be nice to us.

Telling the truth may cause suffering, especially when people don’t want to hear the truth. The truth may hurt when we may have to suffer some kind of punishment or loss as a consequence of a regretful action. Yet taking ownership of our failures is noble and brings with it beatitude (How often we experience this in the sacrament of Reconciliation!).

Even just quietly living a consistently Christian life—this is truthfulness— may make some people feel bad and cause us persecution. For example, in a workplace where everyone is cheating “the system” by clocking in and out but are not working the full hours for which they are being paid. Doing what is right and just—telling the truth about the hours we work—may move others at our workplace to feel guilty, which may bring upon us persecution and scorn. Yet Christ showed us the price of being truthful with his death on the Cross.

Those who suffer persecution for justice’ sake are those who are opposed and criticized due to their loyalty to Christ and his Church. They will go to heaven and possess its glory.

Truth and trust go hand-in-hand, as they are the foundation of all relationships. Let us build up God’s kingdom upon the truth of Jesus Christ.

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.