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Fr. Glenn: Whatever Is Honorable

on December 3, 2017 - 6:32am

By Rev. Glenn Jones

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

With all this sexual harassment stuff these days, we hesitate to click a news website or open a newspaper, for it means to receive yet another new revelation of some luminary who has strayed far from the path of propriety … followed by the almost inevitable “apology” … even though their malfeasance may have continued to the very time of being revealed. So … is he sorry for the behavior, or just sorry he was caught? One can’t help but wonder; one can’t help but doubt. What adds to the irksomeness is that some of the accused had formerly been defenders of the very principles they violated.

I was watching a movie recently about Shaka Zulu—the charismatic warrior leader of the African Zulus in the 1800s who led his people to victory and conquest, and—as you might imagine—causing much consternation among the European colonial powers of that area of southern Africa. An advisor asked the colonial governor if Shaka might be open to a bribe, to which the governor replied: “Unfortunately, Shaka is one of those rare men whose actions actually match his convictions.”

Ouch. What an indictment against mankind. But, tragically … who cannot perceive the truth of it? Hypocrisy, treachery, deceit seemingly omnipresent at times. We are subjected to daily reports of lies and embezzlement by public—and even church—officials who claim to be “looking out for the little guy”. The worst and most despicable hypocrisy of all is likely the abuse of children by some priests and clerics … the ultimate betrayal of the good … those most trusted and privileged betraying God and innocence itself. 

Ideally, you’d think such reports incongruous with human nature because we tend to love movies and stories about good conquering the bad, reveling in the triumph of good over evil. Imagine a story where evil wins; who would enjoy it? Shakespeare’s tragedies, for example, are magnificent … but I’ve always found them leaving me a bit empty at the end. Despite our human hope of the good winning out, in our day we often wonder: “Where have all the heroes gone?”

Where are all the heroes? Where might such courageous souls be found or cultivated in our day?  We needn’t go far. Peer within yourself, for such a soul lies within each of us. Who is a hero except one who recognizes and seizes upon the good, and actually lives by it … even at great cost to himself? This is why we admire the soldier, the firefighter, the policeman … willing to risk their lives for the benefit and safety of others. But each who seeks the good determinedly—especially when tempted otherwise—demonstrates heroic courage. Speaking of Shakespeare, it’s good to remember when we’re challenged by temptations to evil or vice: “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2). As we age, we find that conscience attests to this truth.

Oh … but my past. My life has been spotty at best!” Don’t worry about that; the past is gone, and we can’t bring it back. But there is always something we can do about the future. “But it’s so haaard!” (whine, whine). So what? Grit your teeth and do the good—the honorable—regardless.  Let us not let passions rule us; we rule them! There can be no happiness without self-discipline.  The concept of “maturity” itself might be defined as learning self-command over animal passions in preference of the good and honorable.

I am always edified when re-reading the “Apology of Socrates”—Socrates, who resolved to accept his death sentence rather than recant his beliefs. Likewise, the second book of Maccabees has wonderful motivating stories of Israelites under persecution who refuse to violate their faith even unto death—the story of Eleazar a favorite (2 Maccabees 6). And, of course, for we Christians, the very pinnacle, exemplar and epitome of heroism: Jesus Christ … knowing that:  “…he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2: 6)—ever striving for a more perfect love of God and neighbor.

So don’t worry so much about your imperfections of the past, which cannot be retrieved; what is now important is the future. Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostles and the prophets taught that NOW is the time to convert to the good—loving God and neighbor. A favorite quote is: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land…” (Isaiah 1:18-19)

Remember that the only person who can destroy your honor is yourself—by surrendering to the dishonorable. So, as St. Paul writes (and I’m wont to quote): “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) … so that when you’re before the judgment seat of God, you might hear the angels and saints whispering excitedly: “Ah! is one of those rare ones whose actions actually matched his convictions!”