Sometimes, 30 pieces of silver are all it will take to transact our souls for what the Devil offers in exchange: our self gratification. The problem is that in the glimmer of a seemingly good deal, we don’t realize the dealer is the Devil, and we don’t recognize that avarice is unquenchable. Those 30 pieces of silver never will satisfy whatever it is we desire.
We’ve all been guilty, at least once in our lives, of trading integrity for a quick buck or an easy way out of a tough spot. Often it is not easy to make the right choice. We can be critical of the obvious corruption and greed of the Leon Guerrero administration on Guam, and the former Torres administration in the CNMI; and, rightfully so. That’s easy.
Are we willing to be critical of the not-so-obvious cupidity in society? What of ourselves, and our conduct?
For instance, will we take the political offer of a government job and sidestep our convictions by defending an administration we know is corrupt? People need to make a living, correct?
Then consider a young mother, who walks into a mini-mart and steals an empanada for her six-year-old child. Kids need to eat, right?
Ethically, what is the difference? How one qualifies their actions, their expediency to do what is good for them, does not pardon the indifference toward what is right and true.
No one said it’s easy to do what is right.
On Guam the legislature and the governor recently enacted an across-the-board 22 percent pay raise for GovGuam employees of the General Pay Plan knowing full well: 1) they committed the taxpayers to an annual additional expense of $50 million for pay raises while ignoring decades of problems; 2) they created a drastic disparity in pay between those and comparable positions in the private sector; and 3) not everyone deserves that pay raise. Is it wonderful for these families to receive this additional income? Sure. Was it the proper use of public money, and was it earned?
We witnessed the unraveling of the corrupt BOOST program in the CNMI during legislative hearings last year. Those hearings focused on the actions of the Torres administration officials who ran the program. But what of the people who took advantage of it? I’m not talking about those who applied, or even some of the businesses that received a grant. For example, how did anyone paid to market the program justify in their heads that anything more than the cost of one Facebook post needed to be spent to market a program that gave money away?
And what about the recent junket a legislative delegation took to the Philippines to “learn” more about casino gambling? Let’s set aside the junket angle, and all the excuses these legislators made for their clearly erroneous decision to spend public funds in this way. After all these years and so much evidence of the corruption brought about from the operation of gambling in the CNMI – from money laundering to bribes to drug abuse – how can any elected official desire to keep that industry operating?
Every day, we face questions of conscience, and many times we excuse our decisions with the qualification that the ends justify the means. We can tell ourselves: if we call our friend at the DMV to process our driver’s license, we won’t have to wait in line, and we can be more productive. Is that right? If we survived trauma in our youth, should we be excused for living a life of substance abuse to cope? There are so many decisions we face every moment of every day that test our conscience. And we won’t always get it right. I certainly don’t. I spent most of my adulthood making the wrong choices, and hurting people along the way.
In Mass on Holy Tuesday was a the Gospel reading telling the story of Jesus Christ’s pronouncement at the Last Supper that Judas Iscariot would betray him, and Peter would deny Him.
Both men – among the closest to Him – betrayed Him. But they handled the betrayal in two very different ways. Judas, who transacted his identification of Jesus to the mob that would arrest him in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, was so unwilling to face accountability for his actions, he threw back the silver and hung himself. He took the easy way out.
When Peter realized he had done something terribly wrong by denying Christ, he wept, he hid, and then when Christ appeared to him, he reconciled his wrong choices by keeping a promise to do better. And better, he did. Peter turned his betrayal of the Truth into a crusade that built Christianity in the First Century. It endures.
We all have found ourselves in the positions Judas and Peter were in the night of the Last Supper. We all have and will betray what is true and what is right. We all have and will take those 30 pieces of silver. The question is, will we accept responsibility for the wrong, and then keep a promise to make it right?
We can criticize elected officials all we want for their corruption and lack of ethics. But, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. They wouldn’t be able to trade public resources for power and money if there were no one in the public to transact with. There would be less corruption if there were fewer people willing to be corrupted.
In the choices we make, do we obey, or betray what is right, just, and true? And when we stumble – because none of us are perfect, and we all will make bad choices – will we correct the wrong, the injustice, the lie, and the betrayal?
The Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all as we approach His Passion.