Good Friday: The Price of Integrity
BY FR. BRYAN MASSINGALE | April 2, 2021
There was nothing good about the first Good Friday. We now call it “good” only because we’ve read the “spoilers” about the happy ending.
But that’s not how it was for the first disciples. Or for Jesus. (Or for us in real life). They thought that Friday was the end. Total catastrophe. Public humiliation. Crushing betrayal. Shattered hopes. Excruciating pain. Utter failure.
Neither Jesus nor his followers thought it would end this way: All of his work for the Reign of God. For the inclusive welcome of the outcast and the stranger. For the radical message of abundant mercy for all without exception. It wasn’t supposed to end in spectacular, public, crushing defeat.
There was nothing good about that first Good Friday.
I think of this as I remember when I thought, when I still sometimes think, that my work for racial justice and sexual inclusion is for nothing. I don’t recall the specific catalyst, but I remember when I poured out my frustration and pain—my heartbreak at the rejection I felt from my bishop and some fellow priests—to my spiritual director. She listened patiently and compassionately. And then softly asked,“How much is your integrity worth to you?”
The question seared me. It’s become implanted deep within my soul. It keeps me going when I see no positive outcome for my efforts, when hostile emails flood my inbox, when accusations of “disturbing the faithful” and “causing division” follow from my advocacy. My integrity gives me no other choice. Taking an easier path would do violence to who I am—a price I am unwilling to pay.
I believe that conviction sustained Jesus during that first Good Friday before it became “good.” He could act in no other way without betraying himself. The cross is the price of integrity.
- In what parts of your life is God asking, “How much is your integrity worth to you?”
Fr. Bryan Massingale is a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University in New York. His work focuses on the intersections of race, sexuality, and faith. He is the author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. An award-winning author and teacher, he lectures on social justice both nationally and internationally, and was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.
El P. Bryan Massingale es profesor de ética social y teológica en la Universidad de Fordham en Nueva York. Su investigación se centra en la relación entre raza, sexualidad y fe. Es autor del libro Racial Justice and the Catholic Church.
Thank you very much for this honest and thoughtful reflection on integrity in our individual works and commitments … on this ‘Good’ Friday.
Good trouble – John Lewis
This post is … exactly why I needed to hear. Thank you
Oh…wow. Wow. Wow. Your spiritual advisor is wise, Father, and I thank you for sharing her wisdom, as well as your humanity and struggles. The older I am privileged to become, the more I feel that my integrity is really all I have. Even today – as family I have not seen in over a year will “just stop by”, I must stay strong, be present and loving, but without compromising my understanding of safety, so as to protect others. Not always easy. And, as I try to deepen my understanding of white privilege, and racial injustice, and my responsibilities and place in all this — my integrity is what provides light to my path. Also? Your words, in print and online, have been revelatory to me not just today, but many times in the past year.
Wow … which seems to be a word I find myself thinking/saying in many things from the Ignatian Solidarity Network … But todays writing made me look up at a saying I have taped to my desk …
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if though us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” (Last words of university student Sophie School before she was executed for opposing the Nazi regime in 1944). It left me with the question … how did she (and others) I find (and keep) the courage, the will, the fortitude, the guts? How do I ???
To me integrity means doing/being/saying who you are. The revealtion that Catholic Universities are not Catholic is extremely painful on this Good Friday.My university served minorities well. They cared about their future job possibilities. they wanted them to succeed. One cannot succeed without the revealations of Catholicism and how it will direct yo now and in the future. My Catholicism is a rudder in a storm. It is a joy and delight of who I am as a person. Our university did not promise Catholicism on the day of graduation. We needed a dose of all who are Catholics especially the pastors and priests taht propelled the students through grade school and high school. they were expecting that would happen at the university. Now we are scrambling with the young adults to encourage them to return to their faith. It can be done through prayer and good works. This is truly an aspect of social justice we need to attend to. The pain of Good Friday will be alleviated by our offering to our students the Catholicism that is part of their foundation. The challenge of being Catholic in today’s world is the offering we make to all who are looking for the rudder in the storm. Through Him, With Him and In Him we will bring the message loud and clear.
Thank you Father for your courage, conviction and integrity.
Thank you for these words and for all of your work. It is inspiring to many.
Thank you – great reflection – great question. I think we need to keep questioning whether we use the word integrity as a means not to learn or being stubborn. Integrity opens us to truth and therefore to change and constant conversion of heart.
Thank you, Father! A powerful reflection!
Thank you Father. I think neither Jesus nor the disciples knew how deeply the seeds of the kingdom were planted. They sprouted and grew over time. So is your advocacy for racial and sexual justice planting seeds. It is our job, especially those of us who are white and straight, to cultivate the soil and nurture the tender plants as they grow to become the Church renewed.
Dear Fr. Massingale, I am so grateful to you for your deep commitment to our faith in the God of unfathomable inclusion/connection. Your witness to and trust in the beauty of your Divinely given self is an affirmation and consolation to me and I’m sure many others. May the Compassionate Energy that fuels your life and ministry continue to wrap you round and fill you with Easter joy, strength, and keeping on. I bow in gratitude and solidarity, Dorothy
Thank you so very much for inspiring me to keep moving with integrity until such time all my fridays are a Good Friday…. even if I never fully see it….. I will trust the good news. May God continue to bless and strengthen you as you inspire us with your integrity.
Thank you so much for sharing both your wisdom and your internal struggle with the greater Church. This past week we participated in a group reading and discussion of your article, The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About it. And then, today, you show up in our life again. We are so grateful for your words that help us dig deeper and reflect on how we can courageously respond to the racism and injustice in our country and in our church. Just when we were about to walk away, your words inspire us not to give up.
Fr. Massingale, your work has been so integral to my own faith development. Thank you for spiritual, intellectual, and emotional labor of your work.
“My integrity gives me no other choice”. This is such an important statement. Our integrity is who we are–more than what we believe in, it is the essence of our being. Allowing ourselves to “become” and recognize the unity of creation is foundational when we have to make decisions. Certainly then, when confronted by situations that run counter to who we are, there is only one way to “be”. Contemplating creation’s oneness leaves the ills of society quite flimsy. The example of Jesus on the cross can keep our suffering in perspective. This does not minimize the importance of confrontations in which we must engage. Rather, as we work for social justice and sometimes appear to not make progress, “Keep your eyes on the prize”. We have no other choice. Thank you, Fr. Massingale for your openness, honesty, and integrity.
What is God’s will for me? It is for me to live in to my true self, which leaves no place for shedding our integrity.
Brilliant, Father Bryan. Thank you
Thanks Bryan for these good thoughts. Integrity is everything. Short life or long life are secondary.
Hi Fr. Massingale,
I hesitate to not reply because I am a bit confused by what your spiritual director said to you. I was expecting you to say that she spoke to you of the need to trust deeply. It just seems that “integrity” is more of a personal, temporal issue whereas trust is more spiritual. Do you just ever give it all to God knowing it is too big of an issue for one person or perhaps for any human to handle?
Thank you for this post and for provoking some good thought.
The words of this piece but Bryan Massingale need to be counter-balanced my the views of “white old heads” like me who consider that Fr. Massingale is like a prophet to lead us to racial justice through the realization of our own maybe hidden yet underlying socialization in bias and prejudice. I think his words, logic, focus on ethics, and personal experience are just what our Church and nation need to lead a task force and create a process whereby we can recognize our part in this sickness of the American Soul, and make use of what we have and know about reconciliation to start talking to each other in ways that reveal to us our common dignity and worth as children of the same God, all over our Earth.