What does "Integrity" Mean?
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Jesus tells a parable today about a man who has not been working honestly. We don't know exactly what he has done, but he has not been making good choices. Then Jesus says,
Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
So, the man may have thought that he could make bad choices in his job, but could still be a good person who follows God. "Dishonest wealth" -- he might think that his master's money is just something of this world, it does not belong to God, so what does it matter what he does with it? But Jesus says, if you can't be faithful with the stuff of this world, how can you possibly be faithful with the stuff of God? With true riches.
People like to separate the different parts of their lives, as if the different parts of their lives can be put into different boxes. Like, someone might know that Jesus says to love their neighbour, and so they make an effort to be kind to everyone...except for that kid at school who is extremely annoying. Or someone might know that Jesus said, say "yes" when you mean "yes," but when their brother asks if they ate the last cookie they say, "No," because he would get really mad.
But Jesus is saying that this is not the way to live. The way you live on Sunday should be the way you live everyday. Every day belongs to God! Faithful in a very little = faithful in much. Dishonest in a very little = dishonest in much. The small things may not seem important, but the way we live affects our whole selves. It's the difference between growing straight and true, and growing crooked.
And that's what the word "integrity" means. That's a big word that people don't use nearly enough, I think. It means to live the same way, in every situation, no matter what.
And that is extremely difficult. I struggle with it. How can we possibly do that?
Only with the grace of the Holy Spirit who is given to us in Baptism as our help. We need Counsel (the gift of making right choices) and Fortitude (the gift of strength to do the right thing).
Let's pray today for the gifts of Counsel and Fortitude, so that we can live with integrity, and grow straight and true.
P.S. You may notice that the word "integrity" has the word "grit" in it. Some of you will know that to have grit is to keep on trying when life is difficult. Coincidence? I don't think so :)