I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (Jn 15.15)
There is no secret, esoteric knowledge in Christianity. Our Lord told the disciples all that he had heard from his Father and he gave the Church the mission to proclaim his teaching to all nations.
Sadly, it is a lucrative business to invent a different version of the gospel or to make up some new stories about our Blessed Lord as in The Da Vinci Code.
I mention it today only because there has been so much publicity and some people are worried or confused about it. The book is, of course, a story. It is fiction. But fiction can tell us about real things. For example, Charles Dickens’ wonderful stories helped people to realise the evil of: poverty in London, the anti-Catholic Gordon riots, the debtors prisons, the violence of the French Revolution, the treatment of children in workhouses, and many other social ills. By his fiction, telling the truth about society, Dickens helped spur on many of the social reforms of the Victorian era.
By contrast, The Da Vinci Code does not help us to know what it going on in the real world. Instead, it gives the impression that the Church is an evil organisation that has concealed the truth, that historians think that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that Christians didn’t believe Jesus was truly God until 300 years after his death, and so on.
Sadly, a recent survey has shown that many people in England believe at least some of these things. It is a clear finding of the poll that many people’s beliefs have changed as a result of reading the book. It found that:
36% of people who have read the book believe that the Catholic Church has been involved in a 2000 year conspiracy to cover up the truth about Jesus Christ.
60% of the people who have read the book believe there is “some truth” to the claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children by her. This is twice as many as those who have not read the book.
(Perhaps just as alarming is the percentage of people who have not even read the book and still believe some of the ludicrous claims in it.) Look at that phrase “some truth”. That is typical of the attitude to truth among so many people. Either Jesus was married or he was not. How can there be “some truth” in it?
I think it is a symptom of a disease of the intellect whereby people are willing to believe almost anything. There is a thoroughgoing skepticism about the ability of the human mind to know the truth. There is a lack of confidence, even suspicion, when any claim to truth is made on matters of religion – or even of the history of religious figures. This is deeply corrosive of the human heart and has devastating effects on our moral lives. If there is no real truth or we cannot know the truth, then there will be little to prevent us from behaving just as we feel like. The anti-social behaviour which affects the quality of so many lives is a symptom of this refusal to accept that there is objective truth. If there is no truth, then “I can do what I want”.
This is a wake-up call for us. We cannot be complacent in our faith, just taking everything for granted. We need to know our faith thoroughly. We also need to be ready to give an answer for those who challenge us about the faith.
The “beliefs” that people have as a result of reading The Da Vinci Code are quite easy to refute and fortunately there are very many helps to this. If you use the internet, our own parish website will help get you started. As well as The Da Vinci Code, there are other controversial matters that you may be confronted with by people at work or even in your own family. There is also an excellent CTS pamphlet by Jimmy Aiken of Catholic Answers which can help you to sort things out.
To know the faith well and to be able to give answers to others is a great joy. It is not a question of “winning an argument” but of proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ with kindness and sincerity, based on sound knowledge. Our purpose is to help others to know and love him and to take away some of the obstacles they encounter.
Jesus called his disciples his friends. We rejoice to be his friends also. Sometimes people make the shallow assertion that He does not need us to defend him. Of course, objectively, Jesus Christ is almighty and omniscient and does not “need” anything from us. But he has asked us to defend him. He asked us to proclaim the truth. We might also remember one of Blessed Mother Teresa’s favourite sayings: “Jesus now has no other hands on earth but yours”. Perhaps for one of your friends or family, Jesus now has no other voice on earth but yours. It is a spiritual work of mercy to counsel the doubtful, to show others the truth of Jesus Christ.