When Jesus was standing before Pilate (Jn 18:37-38), Pilate asked Jesus, with world-weary sophistication, “What is truth?”
But Pilate left without waiting for an answer. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus actually gave this question its rightful answer (Jn 14:6): “I am the Truth,” he told his apostles.
In the Gospel Reading for this Sunday, Jesus explains how we ourselves come to the Truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and Christ is the Truth. So the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. And he guides Christ’s people to all truth.
When a person opens to Christ, who is the Truth, then the Spirit of Christ comes to dwell in him. And the indwelling Spirit brings with him the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge (and others). A person who loves Christ and has the Spirit of Christ within her knows the Lord. And in the light of that knowledge, she can also see a lot of things that she would have been blind to before she came to love the Lord. The knowledge of the Lord puts a lot of things into perspective.
With that perspective, she will understand something of the great arc of creation which begins from the Lord and returns to the Lord, and she will see the goodness of the Lord operative in it. And so she will be able to discern the great good things in life from the small ones. And this is wisdom. Finally, with so much knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, she will also have insight into the way to find the great good things of the Lord. And this insight is counsel. So because she has opened to the Spirit of Christ and knows the Lord, she has wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge too.
But, you might think, how does any of this help me know the truth about what to do with this day’s troubles? There are financial troubles or marital troubles or medical troubles. How do I find the truth about what I should do?
Well, if you don’t know where the truth lies and the Spirit of Truth is within you, then you can just ask him. The Spirit of the Lord, who is truth, will lead you to all truth, as the Lord says.
Pilate should have stayed for the answer to his question.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University