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Integrity amid adversity

November 17, 2022 Bro. Clifford T. Sorita 342 views

SoritaMAINTINING one’s integrity amid the temptations of PESO, POWER and PLEASURE is often a solitary and unpopular experience. To stand firm against what is traditionally accepted (“kalakaran na”) is frequently a risk not everyone is willing to take. Grounding oneself to tradition is a culturally enriching experience but do we simply cling to it for purposes of expediency that tramples the foundations for growth and development? Do we simply hang-on to it simply because we have grown accustomed to it, even if it no longer caters to the common good? Or, are we just too stubborn to listen to the voices of truth and change?

Like Copernicus, St. John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness echoing the need to prepare for the coming of the Christ even when it meant persecution from people who thought otherwise. When Copernicus postulated that the Sun was the center of the solar system, he was willing to take-on the ridicule and contempt of a civilization who believed for a long time that it was the Earth that was the center of the solar system. We do not laugh at Copernicus today, but what could have been our reactions back then? John the Baptist was a great prophet. He was willing to clash head-to-head with a particular class of people that were concerned with their own advantage than with the good of the people; or with businessmen when they perpetuated cheating and injustices at the expense of the poor.

As easy as it may sound in theory, maintaining one’s integrity in the face of a real-life situation is a really very difficult process. Most especially when it’s counter-part is a 6-digit salary or a chance at fame and fortune. But many great men and women have surpassed this challenge and stood firm against adversity. Brian Cavanaugh shares this story: Reuben Gonzolas was in the final match of his first professional racquetball tournament. He was playing the perennial champion for his first shot at a victory on the pro circuit. At match point in the fifth and final game, Gonzolas made a super “kill shot” into the front corner to win the tournament. The referee called it good, and one of the lineman confirmed that the shot was a winner.

But after a moment’s hesitation, Gonzolas turned and declared that his shot had skipped into the wall, hitting the floor first. As a result, the serve went to his opponent, who went on to win the match. Reuben Gonzolas walked off the court; everyone was stunned. The next issue of a leading racquetball magazine featured Gonzolas on its cover. The lead editorial searched and questioned for an explanation for this first-ever occurrence on professional racquetball circuit. Here was a player with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his grasp, who disqualifies himself at match point and loses. When asked why he did it, Gonzolas replied, “It was the one thing I could do to maintain my integrity.”

Being that “solitary voice” in the wilderness may be truly difficult at times but it brings its own set of rewards. John the Baptist was quite successful. People listened to his warning. And as a sign of their repentance, says Matthew (cf 3: 1-12), “they made their way to him, and as they were baptized in the river Jordan, they confessed their sins”. Change was no longer far-away.

“Whistle-blowers” to the corruption and injustices around us are also perfect examples of men and women of integrity. They represent a handful of concerned individuals who are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of the common good, and are eager to bring-down a crooked tyrant even at gun point. The world needs individuals with integrity, men and women who are willing to stand for the truth even when it is no longer popular … individuals who are willing to say YES with emphasis even when the rest of the world says NO. We need Men and Women of character whose measurement of truth does not lie in popularity ratings and political conveniences.

The ultimate Good News is this: If we have the riches, we have the ability to share and magnify God to the needy. If our riches are dishonest ones, we can let them go and have God live beside us and make us more secure than how we were before. There is no sure security in a dishonest way of life.

We would go either way: Abundance in our earthly lives and poverty and destruction in the end-eternal or poverty and destruction in the end of our earthly lives and in the end-eternal. But with honesty, even if we have nothing, we already have everything, no imagination required, because such is the Basic Truth of Life.

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