As we settle into Ordinary Time for a few weeks, we focus on the public ministry of Jesus, on what He did and what He taught us through His words and actions. It is a time for us to grow in Him, a time to become more fully His disciples. And one of the things that discipleship requires is honesty in our relationships with one another. That’s why a study done by the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles based ethics institute, is so troubling. The Institute surveyed almost 30,000 high school students at randomly selected public and private high schools across the country assuring them of anonymity. The survey found out that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. 64 percent cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times. 36 percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. As disturbing as these facts might be, what is even more disturbing is that 93 percent of those surveyed said that they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character. This means that the vast majority of those who are acting dishonestly don’t think it is wrong. I wonder if this is because our society – and that means adult society and popular culture – values getting ahead at any cost. Do we adults model dishonesty for our young people and teach them that success is worth more than personal integrity. For example, Herman Rosenblat, a 79 year old survivor of the World War II concentration camp of Buchenwald wrote a book entitled “Angel at the Fence” in which he told the beautiful story of how he and his wife of 50 years met when she smuggled apples and bread to him through the camp fence. The book was never published when it was discovered that Rosenblat, who was indeed at Buchenwald, met his wife on a blind date in New York. So much for the money he was going to make from the book, TV appearances and even a movie. But no wonder our young people get confused about honesty. The question for us is how do we “unconfuse” them?
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