One of the things that priests have to deal with is criticism. This criticism could be well-intentioned (constructive) or without any purpose (destructive). Some people like to talk behind the back of others and are not able to bring to a conversation something that is distressing. As a priest, I received any kind of criticism with love and understanding, even if I know somebody is talking behind my back or somebody who is talking about me instead of talking to me.
In ministry, one of the aspects that I spend many hours in preparation is preaching and preaching to different congregations. Some people start talking about the priest who preaches about a social justice issue, or even about a political problem avoiding taking sides. Being objective in the pulpit about current events is difficult, but certainly, a priest should see, judge and act about a situation at hand and help others open their eyes in front of a reality confronted in the light of the Gospel. Confronting a social reality of a throwaway culture (consumeristic society) and a culture of death it is not easy. With the new developments and the lack of interest of the youth in matters of faith, there are some answers… New generations filled with apathy, indifference, relativism, agnosticism, materialism, etc… it is also a challenge by the light of the Gospel. The Gospel hit us HARD by reminding us that through faith in Christ we overcome every difficulty. That is when many people decide to give up their faith just because it requires discipline, concentration, and a self-giving attitude to take the role of a real disciple in the Church of Christ.
Some parishioners approach me and say to me “Father, preach this way and you will have more friends”… That is a good idea in I am very open to any kind of feedback but my task is not only to make good friends but overall to make good disciples. One of the things that distinguish a good disciple is the practice of fraternal correction. We find the explanation of fraternal correction in the Gospel of Matthew (18, 15-17). Paul addressed emerging divisions in a community by admonishing those who were falling astray (Gal. 2:11-14). http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04394a.htm
On the other hand, some parishioners accustomed of hearing a Soft Gospel that is not challenging them to grow or that is against their own viewpoints could take the preaching of a priest as something somehow personal when it is not the case. For example, every time that I preach, I take a few seconds to invoke the Holy Spirit so He can take over my mouth and my intellect to deliver the words that the People of God needs to hear. Perhaps, sometimes we are so relaxed in our comfort zone that we forget of the changes that the Gospel is asking us to do. That includes making some sacrifices, to go beyond our own expectations, to forgive and love unconditionally (just to name a few). Pope Francis asked the youth and all people of good will to go and swim against the tide.https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/popes-quotes-swim-against-tide That is what the Lord does: He helps us to be the best version of ourselves. So next time that you think about complaining about something you saw or heard in your parish, reflect on how are you going to be an instrument of God’s mercy and love. If not, keep silent until the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, come to your help and speak through you. Then be willing to get a HARD blow to your heart and start changing for the good and the glory of God.