The phrase “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL’’ is one that most of us have heard and possibly one that has been used in many languages and cultures. Surely there are other similar sayings in different languages and cultures that point to the same “truth”. It is clear that this phrase is not only theoretical, but it is actually practical – a phrase that everyone will accept without much protest.

John chapter 17 from where our Gospel is taken today is known as the ‘prayer for unity’ by Jesus just before enduring His passion. Jesus’ final words to His disciple are sketched out in the form of a prayer, as he acknowledges that staying together is going to be essential for the early Church in the face of impending persecution. The main concern of Jesus for His disciples is plainly stated in this prayer. Jesus tells His Father that He has done all that was asked of Him and now turns to the Father and says, “keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us… protect them from the evil one”. 

How wonderful it is to have Jesus, to whom we address all our prayers, now in fact prays for His disciples – all of us. His primary concern is that we will remain to the truth that Jesus came to reveal and in doing so, we will be united to His body, the Church. The prayer of Jesus is not too distant from us today. What Jesus wants for His Church are the same two qualities expressed in His prayer: truth and unity. 

Truth is not based on opinions and interpretations but this has been the cause of division in the church over the centuries.  Sometimes we also end up “arm twisting” opinions and interpretation to suit “our truth”. Philosophers over the years have often debated on what is objective and subjective truth because for them determining what is true is the most essential and necessary task of our human existence.

When standing before Pilate, Jesus declares, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” The truth that Jesus points to is God the Father, who is the source of infinite truth, and only in Him can we be united to that ‘one bread, one body’ – Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus, the essential truths of our faith must find ‘guidance in scripture’ and the ‘authority of the Church’ – two sources that we must turn to when the “truth” we search for becomes blur especially when confronted with challenges.

In saying “consecrate them in the truth”, Jesus is imploring His Father that all those who believe in Him may not be easily deceived by the values of the world and lose sight of the values given by faith when searching for the truth. In other words, “to be consecrated in the truth” means that we belong to the truth and that we are committed to the truth. To accept this calling is to be instruments of the Truth, and that we are seeking God’s Will.”

We live in a world with an abundance of information at our fingertips. The “challenge” today is not that we do not have information but to have a discerning mind and heart to be able to know what is truth and what is not. In the words of Cardinal Gibbons (1834 – 1921), “Like all valuable commodities, truth is often counterfeited” and we need to be able to tell the difference. 

In a digital era, as disciples of Jesus, we have a greater responsibility to bear witness to the truth and not falsehood since we profess Jesus to be “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. We must also become people who live by and bear witness to the Truth – to preserve the unity of the body of Christ.

Today we celebrate World Communications Day and in his message, Pope Francis points out that “All of us are responsible for the communications we make, for the information we share… All of us are to be witnesses of the truth: to go, to see and to share.” Many of us are guilty of forwarding messages we receive even without reading and worse still not checking for their authenticity. We want to be the first to “break the news”, good or bad. If Jesus did pray to His Father to consecrate us in the truth, then we must seek to reject half-truths and untruths, but promote the Truth, that is Jesus Christ.

Perhaps there is something we can change immediately – to be witnesses of truth. The next time you want to forward or blast a message to all the people in your contact list, ask yourself this question… is this the truth? Is this what it means to be “consecrated in the truth” – that which Jesus prayed to His Father for all of us? In a digital world that is already divided along so many different lines, as followers of Jesus, let us be committed and accountable to Jesus, the eternal Truth, and seek to always reject falsehood and sow seeds of truth – the same truth that Jesus came to bear witness to. Happy World Communications day 2021.