I could really beat myself up over this one. I am sure you probably could too. After all, when we look in the mirror can we honestly say we are seeing someone who lives constantly as a person of integrity? Do we always think, speak, and act according to the dictates of our ideals, even when we think nobody can see us or will ever know what we did? I got to thinking about this when I reading about the life of St. Augustine of Hippo on his memorial today.
An ambitious school-boy of brilliant talents and violent passions, he early lost both his faith and his innocence. He persisted in his irregular life until he was thirty-two. Being then at Milan professing rhetoric, he tells us that the faith of his childhood had regained possession of his intellect, but that he could not as yet resolve to break the chains of evil habit. One day, however, stung to the heart by the account of some sudden conversions, he cried out, “The unlearned rise and storm heaven, and we, with all our learning, for lack of heart lie wallowing here.” He then withdrew into a garden, when a long and terrible conflict ensued. Suddenly a young fresh voice (he knows not whose) breaks in upon his strife with the words, “Take and read;” and he lights upon the passage beginning, “Walk honestly as in the day.” The battle was won. – Pictorial Life of the Saints, Shea, John Gilmary
While it would be easy to draw some loose comparisons to the trajectory of our young adult lives, that was not what initially drew my attention. No, what I was drawn to was the “young fresh voice” and “Walk honestly as in the day.”
This was the main point for me. I thought about how it is impossible to live with true integrity when we try to do it on the merits of our own strengths. It was not Augustine’s brilliant intellect which brought him to live a life of heroic virtue, nor was it an ardent desire to follow a way of life to which he was committed. It was an act of grace which Jesus spoke about to his apostles:
24 …“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” – Mark:10 NABRE
And here: 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” John:6 NABRE
For me, for Augustine, and for you if you are a Christian, living with integrity is impossible without allowing ourselves to surrender to the promptings of the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit which brings us into relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. When the great gift of that grace is received and embraced it becomes the foundation of everything that we are.
Living with integrity doesn’t mean that we live flawlessly, never stumbling or falling on our journey. It means that we strive for perfection while knowing we will make mistakes. It means living as if Jesus is always with us to see everything we say and do, because he does. It means that when we choose to do something that saddens him, we are sorry and seek to restore our friendship with Jesus as we rely completely upon his mercy.
That reminds me, I have not been to Confession for awhile. I had better make time for that on my calendar this week. As a Catholic Christian I am being invited by the Father to restore my relationship with Jesus in this way.
Okay Integrity, let’s do it.