Let’s be honest! by Rev. Mr. Guy Dacquay, Permanent Deacon
I’m sure most of us have heard the old English proverb: Honesty is the best policy? That simple phrase has always been an important guiding value in my life. For we Christians, honesty is identified as one of the cardinal virtues we are called to practice. With our children, one of the first things we teach them not to tell a lie. But let’s be honest, we know that it means more than that. Honesty is about living in a morally upright way, following God’s law of love and truth in the way we speak and in the way we act.
We are being honest when we don't say things about people that aren't true, when we admit to our actions even if it gets us in trouble, and when we explain how a situation really happened. We behave honestly when we do what we know is the right thing to do, according to God’s truth and way of love. So we don’t hide the truth and deceive people, we don’t break the rules and cheat to have an advantage, and we don’t take something that isn't ours by stealing.
Now I think we can all agree on the importance of that. But let’s be honest, how many of us haven’t succumbed to the temptations of being dishonest in our lives? When we were little children, we might have lied when we stole a cookie out of the jar to avoid punishment. Or when were teens, we perhaps lied to cover up smoking with our friends, again to avoid the wrath of Mom, right?
Now looking back, we might agree that these were only small mistakes and we would not consider them too serious a weight on the scale of justice. But let’s be honest, if we consider what Jesus is teaching in today’s Gospel, are these little cover ups truly to be discounted? Jesus say’s that ‘…whoever is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much.’ (Lk 16.10). Now, there’s not much wiggle room here! Our Lord further states that small dishonesties are closely related to great dishonesty, which means that they can be the root and seed of greater problem if left unchecked. This is why parents and schools need to use the little incidents of our childhood and youth to teach God’s truth with love and discipline, so that the virtue of honesty can be deeply seeded in our children and help them to contribute building a peaceful, just, and safe society.
But being honest can be a great challenge due to the weakness of our human sinful nature. The allures of wealth and power can tempt many to love and serve themselves while disregarding service and love for God and neighbour. In today’s first reading, we see what ultimately happens when merchants work only to make more money at the total expense of the poor and oppressed. They will even go as far as tampering with weigh scales, so that they cheat the buyer out of what they should have received! I’m sure none of us here likes to be ripped off, and neither does God who wants all of our love!
Through the prophet Amos, God tells the people of Israel that such self-serving dishonesty will not be forgotten and implies that they will be held to account for their wickedness. Some 700 years later, Jesus further clarifies this principle in the parable found in the long version of today’s Gospel. It tells the story about a corrupt manager who, while facing serious charges of wasteful mismanagement, knows how to shrewdly deal with creditors to save his hide.
Jesus uses this parable not to promote dishonest gain, but to show how humans are endowed in their creation by God with the ability to reason through situations and the freedom to choose to do what is right. They can recognize what love demands according to God’s truth and to live accordingly, which will lead them to eternal life just like God’s children who follow the light of Jesus! But one of the great obstacles to finding and serving God is when a person allows the pursuit of wealth to dominate their life!
Now it’s true that to survive in today’s world, people need to work and make money and countries need to produce and exchange goods, relying on investment and strong economic principles. As they say, money makes the world go ‘round! But the economic health and prosperity of countries must always take a backseat to upholding the dignity, rights and well-being of all people, whom God has created in His image and likeness. And in this regard, when it comes to setting priorities between God and money, Jesus teaches that when choosing to serve God, that there are no half measures…it’s an all or nothing deal!
But let’s be honest, how many of us don’t get pre-occupied with the health of our country’s economy or our own bottom line? How many seek to shrewdly manage their wealth by avoiding paying taxes, or in saving money for services done through under the table agreements? When this happens, some people do benefit, but this is on the back of all taxpayers who will ultimately need to pay higher taxes so that the government can continue to fund important services. And when governments can’t fund services adequately, they then look to cut back on certain programs that always affect someone, which are often the poor and those needing the most support. Yes, governments need to establish fair taxation and rules that are enforced so that all citizens can be protected and benefit equally.
Indeed, the state has a great responsibility towards the people they govern. To ensure the common good and a peaceful society, they must operate honestly, justly and transparently. But let’s be honest, how can governments do this if their leaders and ruling parties focus only on gaining and keeping power at all cost? How can governments magnanimously seek the well being of all citizens, when they allow themselves be guided by worldly ideologies that are contrary to God’s laws, and when they behave in sometimes underhanded or even unlawful ways to achieve their ends?
Now we can certainly look that the desperation of peoples in some countries of South America or Africa, and point to the obvious badness of their leaders and governments. But let’s be honest, even our own country is suffering from the dishonesty of government leaders who either avoid making important laws that would prohibit abortion, or in promulgating laws that support euthanasia and assisted suicide. Many in our society seem to be thinking, yes but there’s much burden and cost involved in caring for unwanted children and those who are terminally ill or don’t want to live. But who do we want to serve, God or wealth?
As many of us know, Canada is currently in an election period. We are blessed in Canada to have a democratic process for electing the leaders who will work to shape and direct social and economic policies that seek to balance the needs of its citizens. It’s certainly far from a perfect process, but democracy in principle is a fair system that gives freedom and power to the people to have an equal say in who leads their government. But to be truly effective, all citizens eligible to vote should conscientiously work to identify and choose the right leadership that will best serve the country to ensure everyone’s well-being. And they need to be held accountable when they don’t.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has recently published a voter’s guide on their website that provides very important direction for us to consider. In it they say that ‘While Christian beliefs do not constitute a political platform, they can be seen as a prism through which to analyze and evaluate government policies, laws, and programs’ (CCCB Voting as Catholics, 2019 Federal Election Guide, p.1). And so we are called to apply the principles and virtues of our faith in Jesus and the teachings of his Church when discerning who to support in an election and what public policies should be in place.
As believers and citizens in our democratic society, we are given the right to vote and it is our duty and responsibility to speak out against injustice and dishonesty. We also strive to work together to ensure a peaceful and just society, while ensuring no one is left behind, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. But let’s be honest, do our government leaders allow us to freely exercise our democratic rights of freedom of speech and religion that enable us to do this? Disturbingly, a number of moral issues are currently kept off the political discussion radar: abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, divorce, homosexual unions and marriage, and gender/sexuality debates among others. Meanwhile some political parties won’t even allow their members to hold objective views on these issues or vote according to their conscience!
Now some may be saying, ‘Well these topics are done with so we should just move on. Besides that, the Church should not to be involved in partisan politics anyways.’ But is that what God expects us to do? I don’t think so.
God certainly leaves us the freedom to make choices but he does not operate at a distance from our actions. As St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the ransom for our sins has been paid and we have been reconciled to our Father in Heaven. And so God now walks with us and wants to share intimately in the way we work in our society and its governance. So we must love, respect, and serve God first, and then let our actions be guided by our faith and beliefs.
Now some may say ‘Ok, but what do we do when all the major parties seemed to have taken similar stands on important moral issues?’ Well in situations like this where there seems to be evil on all sides, the moral theology of the Church teaches us to strive and choose the lesser of the evils. In other words, vote for the party that shows the most potential in upholding what is right and just in accordance with God’s law.
And there are indeed a number of important competing issues and values to assess a party against. How do we know which ones to prioritize? Well there are of course many important values we can refer to are based on the social teachings of our faith. The first and foremost of these is the right to life from conception to natural death. As Fr. Tom Lynch, National Director for Priests for Life wrote in their recent newsletter ‘..without a right to life, no other rights are worthwhile!’ (Priests for Life Canada, 2019, Issue 4, p. 1). I would also add that a political party’s willingness to support the freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and religion are right up there in priority. Now, if we are not familiar with the important social values taught by Jesus and our Church, then we have a duty to inform ourselves and our consciences about what we believe.
Once informed, then we must then study the policies and positions of the candidate parties and local representatives. Any canvassers coming to our doorsteps should be asked what they will do to help the most vulnerable: the poor, the unborn child, the terminally ill and those seeking to end their life. While many are willing and eager to debate important issues about our indigenous peoples or climate change, are we ready to speak up in defense of life? As political parties make public choices, look at their leaders to see what values they uphold. Will a leader who strongly advocates for abortion, euthanasia and right to assisted suicide likely to enshrine any pro-life policies?
Now, if we want all people and especially the poor and needy to benefit in our country and be raised by God to sit with the more fortunate as we read in today’s Psalm, then we need to get close to God, pray, and get involved in our democratic system…let’s not forget that we are the hands and feet of our
Lord in this world! Since the happiness, peace, and justice of our society depend on each and every vote, then we must go out and vote for the right leaders whose values align with what we believe!
As we prepare to vote in our upcoming election, let us pray to receive God’s wisdom, pray for our fellow citizens, and pray for our political leaders and their parties involved in the upcoming election.
Let honesty be the best policy that guides each of us and our nation. Amen!
A Homily given on
25th Sunday Ordinary Time, September 22, 2019 – (Readings: Gospel: Lk 16.10-13 (short reading); 1st R Amos 8.4-7 ; Ps113; 2nd R 1 Tim 2.1-7
by Rev. Mr. Guy Dacquay, Permanent Deacon in the Archdiocese of Ottawa
Deacon Guy Dacquay is a permanent deacon serving at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. Deacon Guy and his spouse Christine are originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba and have been married 35 years. Together they raised a family of six children and now have 8 grandchildren. Deacon Guy was a career federal public servant who retired after 34 years of service as an inspector, policy officer and manager. Near the end of his career and after working many years volunteering in lay ministry and scouting, Deacon Guy pursued formation studies and was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2016. He is currently directing his parish Alpha program.
- Ignatius Study Bible
- https://talkingtreebooks.com/definition/what-is-honesty.html https://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/2019_Federal_Election_Guide.pdf
- Priests for Life Canada, 2019, Issue 4
Images: Source: Google Images