POPE FRANCIS ON THE 8TH COMMANDMENT:
“DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS.”
Below you have the Zenit Agency’s English translation of Pope Francis’ Catechesis given in Rome on Nov. 14, 2018.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In today’s catechesis, we will address the Eighth Word of the Decalogue: “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
This Commandment — says the Catechism — “forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others” (n. 2464). To live of inauthentic communications is grave because it impedes relationships and, therefore, impedes love. Where there is a lie there is no love, love can’t be exercised. And when we speak of communication between persons we mean not only words but also gestures, attitudes, even silences, and absences. A person speaks with all that he is and does. We are all in communication always. We all live communicating and we are continually poised between the truth and lies.
But what does it mean to tell the truth? Does it mean to be sincere or exact? In reality, this isn’t enough, because one can be sincerely in error, or one can be precise in the detail but not gather the meaning of the whole. Sometimes we justify ourselves saying: “But I said what I felt!” Yes, but you have absolutized your point of view. Or “I only said the truth!” It may be so, but you have revealed personal or reserved facts. How much gossip destroys communion because it’s inopportune or lacking in delicacy! Rather, gossip kills, and the Apostle James says this in his Letter. Gossipers are people who kill: they kill others because the tongue kills as a knife. Beware! A gossiper is a terrorist because with his tongue he hurls the bomb and leaves calmly, but the thing that that hurled bomb says destroys others’ reputation. Don’t forget: to gossip is to kill.
But then, what is the truth? This is the question asked by Pilate, precisely while Jesus was carrying out the Eighth Commandment before him (Cf. John 18:38). In fact, the words “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor” belong to forensic language. The Gospels culminate in the account of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection; and this is the account of a trial, of the execution of the sentence and of an unheard of consequence.
Interrogated by Pilate, Jesus says: “For this, I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). And Jesus gives this “witness” with his Passion and Death. The evangelist Mark recounts that “the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that He thus breathed his last, he said: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (15:39). Yes, because He was coherent, He was coherent: with his way of dying, Jesus manifests the Father, His merciful and faithful love.
The truth finds its full realization in the person of Jesus himself (Cf. John 14:6), in His way of living and dying, the fruit of His relationship with the Father. This existence as children of God, He, risen, gives it also to us by sending the Holy Spirit who is Spirit of truth, who attests to our heart that God is our Father (Cf. Romans 8:16).
In every act of his, man affirms or denies this truth — from little daily situations to more demanding choices. But it’s always the same logic: that which parents and grandparents teach us when they tell us not to tell lies.
Let us ask ourselves: what truths attest the works of us Christians, our words or our choices? Each one can ask himself: am I a witness of truth, or am I more or less a liar disguised as true? Each one must ask him/herself. We, Christians, aren’t exceptional men and women. However, we are children of the heavenly Father, who is good and doesn’t delude us and puts in our hearts love for brothers. This truth isn’t said so much with speeches; it’s a way of existing, a way of living, and it’s seen in every single act (Cf. James 2:18). This man is a true man, that woman is a true woman: one can see it. But why, if he doesn’t open his mouth? But he/she behaves as true. He/she says the truth, acts with truth — a good way of living for us.
The truth is God’s wonderful revelation, of His face of Father, and His boundless love. This truth corresponds to human reason but surpasses it infinitely, because it’s a gift come down on earth and incarnated in Christ crucified and risen; it is rendered visible by one to whom it belongs and shows his same attitudes.
Not to bear false witness means to live as a child of God, who never, never denies himself, never tells lies; live as children of God, letting emerge in every act the great truth: that God is Father and we can trust in Him. I trust God: this is the great truth. From our trust in God, who is Father and loves me, loves us, my truth is born and my being true and not a liar.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican