Sermon: Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Question: If I were to say to you, “The world is my oyster,” what would you take that to mean?

{Pause for answers.}

That’s what most would say, but it is actually only half of a line from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor

In Act II, Scene II, two thieves, Falstaff and Pistol, enter and are having a conversation. 

Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.

Pistol: Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.

Falstaff: Not a penny. 

“Why then the world’s mine oyster,” when the rest of the sentence is added, “Which I with sword will open,” is saying, “Anything I want is mine, and I’ll take by any means necessary, including violence.” 

From “Money is the root of all evil” to “Now is the winter of our discontent,” there are many examples of taking a part of a sentence or statement out of context and having it say the complete opposite or never intended interpretation of the original intent. When we do this in working with Holy Scripture, we call it proof-texting, and today, in our Gospel, we have a fine illustration.

“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’”

“The truth will make you free,” or “The truth will set you free.” It is everywhere, including titles of books, with those books ranging in topics from psychiatry, finding your true self, and video games. Then you’ve got politicians batting it about, but I don’t know one of them that would know the truth if it smacked them upside the head (but that’s a commentary and not preaching). The trouble is, all of these use the statement out of context, because the truth they are referring to is not the truth Jesus was referring to when he spoke those words. It is not some random truth that will set you free.

St. Thomas Aquinas, that great 13th-century Dominican theologian, wrote, “In this passage, being made free does not refer to being freed of every type of wrong . . .; it means being freed in the proper sense of the word, in three ways: first, the truth of his teaching will free us from the error of untruth …; second, the truth of grace will liberate us from the slavery of sin: ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death’ (Rom 8:2); third, the truth of eternity in Christ Jesus will free us from decay. (cf. Rom 8:2 1)”

There are many truths out there, but the only one that will truly set you free is Jesus, His grace, and His teachings. As Jesus, the Son of God, said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

And that’s the truth!

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