By Deacon Timothy Britt.
There is a show on T.V. called “The X Files.” It’s about two F.B.I. agents who investigate strange and unexplained events, like ghosts and UFOs. The show’s tagline is “the truth is out there.”
I always thought of that tagline as saying that there was a rational explanation for all the mysteries that the agents were investigating. The answers the agents were searching for, basically the truth, would eventually be found because it was “out there” — somewhere.
Of course, there is another way of looking at that expression “out there.” It’s something that people say, sometimes, when they’re talking about something or someone who is unconventional, unorthodox or eccentric. It’s what people mean when they say that the truth is stranger than fiction or when they ask, “is this guy for real?”
As Catholics we cannot deny that the truth that we present to the world is “out there.” Jesus himself did not deny it, or at least he expected that some people would find the truth too hard to accept. Following what we call “the bread of life discourse” in John’s Gospel, many of his disciples said, “This saying is hard;” (aka, This teaching is “out there”) “Who can accept it?” and many of them returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Even today, many find our teaching on the Eucharist too out there. It is a stumbling block too confounding to get around or over. Two people can look at the same thing and see two entirely different things. Like an optical illusion, some of us might squint and strain and still not see what is said to be right before our eyes. The plate of what used to be bread and the cup of what used to be wine for some continue to appear to be nothing more than bread and wine. Like Pontius Pilate, we ask, “What is truth?” while truth himself stands before us.
Following Jesus’ introduction of himself as bread for the life of the world, as he watched so many followers walk away, Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” To which Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the holy one of God.”
It wasn’t that what he was telling them was any easier for them to swallow than it was for those who left; it was simply that they believed in him. They trusted their friend. The truth was out there, but Jesus was close enough to touch. Jesus said it was true and so they came to recognize that Jesus himself was present — body, blood, soul and divinity — in the Blessed Sacrament. A hymn that I remember from my youth encourages us to “Look beyond the bread you eat; see your Savior and your Lord. Look beyond the cup you drink; see his love poured out as blood.”
The truth is out there, but Jesus is close enough to touch. Moreover, in the Blessed Sacrament we actually become a part of him. And so it happens that the truth that is somewhere out there is actually very close by. It has been placed on our hearts and written on our minds.
Deacon Timothy Britt is assigned to St. Mary Parish, Alexandria, Ky.