On honesty and integrity

“If you ask me if I’d die for my Christian faith as St. Lorenzo Ruiz did before his torturers, I’ll say I’m not sure,” Deacon Danilo Guinto openly said during his homily to the seminary community on the Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions.

“I hope I could,” he added.

His honest and transparent statement struck me and made me think of my faith. Yes, what about me? I told myself. Am I also ready to die for my Christian faith? Like Deacon Guinto, I’d also say, “I hope I could.”

It’s more admirable to be honest about our doubts, fears, and concerns than to put on an act and give the impression to others that we’re strong when we are not. It’s better to be transparent and to be grounded in personal integrity than to be fake in front of people.

The parable in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 21:28-32) is about the virtues of honesty and integrity. It’s a short anecdote about a father who gave orders to his two sons. He came to the first and asked him, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today. He said in reply, “I will not,” but afterward changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, “Yes, sir,” but did not go.

Jesus then asked his disciples which of the two sons did his father’s will. They answered, “The first.”

Yes, the first son is honest and had more integrity. He took time to think if he could do the task that his father asked him to do rather than to say yes right away. He may have had initial fears but then realized that he could do the job. So he came back to his father and did what he asked him to do. The second son immediately agreed to follow his father’s order, but in the end, he did not do it. Was he just trying to impress his father instead of being honest about his lack of time or his incapability?

Honesty and integrity are important Christian virtues.  Eleonore Stump sheds light on these virtues through frames of words and actions in her Gospel reflection, Glancing Thoughts: “What the No-saying son says is contrary to God’s will. But what he does is in accordance with it. It is the other way around with the YES-saying son. The words of the Yes-saying son are obedient to God’s will, but his life is lived in opposition to it.”

We’re tired of people muttering and making promises without action. We’re tired of people not living up to their principles and convictions. And we don’t want to be the same way.

Pope Paul VI also wrote in his Apostolic Letter, Octogesima Adveniens:  “It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustices and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accomplished for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by efficient action.”

Indeed, may our lips and actions proclaim the words and goodness of Jesus Christ our Lord! May we be Christian men and women of honesty and integrity!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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