A little more than 5 months ago, I was ordained as a priest. Since then, virtually every single day family members, friends and people that I have met occasionally want from me a favor or something to do for them. I receive many requests People’s expectations are very high. Some people want to take me to their houses for a house visit, some others invite me for lunch or dinner, or they just want me to accept a gift without asking many questions. Sometimes, I have to say NO to some requests and turn down some invitations because either I am very busy or because it is my day off. During my life in the seminary, I learned to say no, just because priests do not suppose to be people-pleasers. St. Paul is very clear by telling us in the letter to the Galatians that “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” Gal 1,10.
I am a servant in my journey to please God only. My role as a priest is to make people understand that their priority should be God. I accompany the People of God in their journey towards salvation. I follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ and the example of Saints that were celebrated this week in the Solemnity of all Saints. Jesus had many arguments with the religious and political authorities of his time because he was outspoken pointing about the hypocrisy and the double moral standards of their lifestyle (Sadducees, Pharisees, and Roman authorities). By the same token, the saints were always aiming at pleasing God only and they faced suffering when their views and heroic virtues conflicted with leading figures of their time. Blessed Oscar Romero is the best example of our time: a fearless Archbishop who took to heart the words of the Gospel. He was martyred after pleading for justice during the civil war in El Salvador, Central America. He was outspoken in radio broadcasts and homilies; when he had a premonitory feeling about his own death: “If I am killed, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people”, he never shut his mouth. http://www.paxchristiusa.org/2015/06/01/reflection-archbishop-oscar-romero-if-they-kill-me-i-will-arise-in-the-salvadoran-people/
We are living in a society and a culture of people-pleasers. In contrast, some groups in our Catholic Church are working to restore our culture to a culture of life and the values of the Gospel. Even one of our own young parishioners is involved in a project that aims to rebuild our culture: http://www.restoreculture.com/. All the system is working towards making all people “happy”, but what happiness we are talking about? It is a customer service kind of happiness in which we all are satisfied as we receive special treatment to get a product and satisfaction guaranteed for the consumer? The dynamics of consumerism in our society in relation to our faith is missing the meaning of our goals: the common good. We see how some self-proclaimed pastors are profiting from the faith by “selling salvation” like any other corporation or business. http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/8-richest-pastors-in-america.aspx
These “pastors”, false prophets and prosperity preachers are just people-pleasers who preach what the congregation wants to hear. They will never make people uncomfortable by questioning the congregation about getting out of the comfort zone and point to injustice and suffering. They are taking care of their own pockets, profiting from a non-profit umbrella. In contrast, priests like the prophets are the result of the prayers of God’s people. God called prophets in the Old Testament to announce and denounce injustice. The prophet Amos to the women of Samaria warns that “You take things from the poor and crush people who are in need. Then you command your husbands, ‘Bring us something to drink! Amos 4,1. We are living in a globalized world with many spots of violence http://www.cfr.org/interactives/global-conflict-tracker#!/global-conflict-tracker human traffic, discrimination, racism, abortion, homelessness, and injustice is on the rise… and what are we doing? I was wondering why the country where I was born: Venezuela, is not included in the list of armed conflicts, in a country that is suffering institutionalized violence and mismanagement. http://www.money.cnn.com/2017/10/27/news/economy/venezuela-debt/index.html The voice of priests and real pastors are heard in the voice of Pope Francis who just launched a campaign to help refugees and migrants in their journey. https://www.sharejourney.org/ This call is for every individual; we also exercise our Baptismal Priesthood in our community when we start doing works of mercy. For instance, there is a group of parishioners in our parish http://www.stpeterstpaul.com working very hard to bring jackets to homeless during the cold of winter. http://www.gofundme.com/7qkbm3-jackets-for-the-homeless
In short, priests are not called to be people-pleasers making Jesus present in the Eucharist and the way we live the Gospel. This goes hand and hand with my last blog about being a Sign of Contradiction. This calling is not only for priests but for every Catholic Christian: we are called from baptism to be prophets; we are called to proclaim the Good News like the Apostle and disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to avoid the sin of “human respect” or when we fear man more than God and we are more concerned with what people think of us than what God thinks of us. This is an unholy, sinful fear, and is at the root of many of our sins, both of commission and of omission; this sinful attitude is very well explained in the link that follows: http://www.aleteia.org/2016/05/01/the-sin-of-people-pleasing/ Even for our own sanity, psychologists recommend avoiding this kind of behavior. http://www.psychcentral.com/lib/21-tips-to-stop-being-a-people-pleaser/
May the Lord continue guiding your lives as I asked from Him the blessings and inspirations to continue writing in this blog. Sometimes I feel that I am running out of words. I count with your prayers…