A few weeks ago, I discussed sycophancy and ecclesiastical authority. Today’s post focuses on reliability, which affects how one exercises ecclesiastical authority and perceives those who exercise it.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the adjective ‘reliable’ as “suitable or fit to be relied on.” The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary considers a reliable person as one “that can be trusted to do something well; that you can rely on.”
Everyone wants someone they can trust and depend on, someone who keeps to their word and can deliver. Hence, reliability is not only needed by those who do good deeds. The dark world also wants a reliable person to do a dirty assignment. Hence, it is not wrong to say that even the devil wants a reliable person because very few qualities are needed at the same level on both the moral and immoral sides.
Of course, my interest today is how this quality plays out in our ministry. We sometimes complain that our superiors do not want to work with or entrust us with certain roles or that our assistants do not cooperate. The question is: how reliable have we been? Questions that help us gauge our reliability score include:
How do we attend to that sick call our superior sends us? How do we perform when sent to mass at the outstation? Do we go there and begin trying to present our superior in a bad light or intentionally try to outshine him because we are more talented than him in singing or preaching? How do we manage the little parish funds entrusted to us?
As superiors, do we keep our promise to visit someone? When we fail due to circumstances, do we call to apologise or reschedule? Do we pay our subordinates when due? If we fail to do so, do we explain why the delay? Do we utilise the money we collect for a particular project for that particular purpose, or do we divert it to another? Do we give priests or seminarians the funds allocated to them, or do we hoard a portion and present the remaining to them?
As people exercising authority, when asked to send funds to someone, do we send the complete money? When one sends us to manage a project, do we inflate the charges or invent expenses that do not exist? Do we say one thing to Mr A and another to Mrs B? The book of Revelations says: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Revelations 3:15-16).
As I previously wrote, “Since the Church exercises only moral authority, safeguarding this authority has never been more important. This is because the extent of our authority depends entirely on the extent to which people believe we can exercise that authority.”
Hence, instead of being envious of how people trust our colleagues, let’s ask ourselves why they don’t trust us as they trust them. Instead of always blaming our subordinates, superiors or the laity for their attitude toward us, we should introspect and evaluate their trust level for us. Unfortunately, if we damage our reliability, it is extremely difficult to correct because the reputation follows us.
We might say it doesn’t matter. Yet, as we prepare for our old age without any form of authority, which could be accompanied by sickness, reliability and reputation become indispensable. Sycophants will filter away because they are more interested in what they get. They typically shift to the next person who will provide what they want. It is largely those who considered us reliable pastors or superiors that will come around then. Let’s ask ourselves how many older priests or religious we desire to visit and support, and why do we not want to visit others with whom we have or have had a relationship?
Jesus tells us a parable of the master who gave talents to his servants. When he returned, and the two servants entrusted with five and two talents each returned with extra five and two, respectively, the master said: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25: 21).
May God continue to help us🙏🏾