Last week I wrote about working together for the common good. Today, I wish to reflect on the disadvantages of not working together.
To adequately reflect on this, I distinguish five parties involved in a relationship between Church personnel—Priest/Religious/Seminarian A, Priest/Religious/Seminarian B, the Christian community, bishop/superior, and Jesus Christ.
Conflicts among us affect our well-being as priests, seminarians and religious. We might argue that we are well off in the conflict. However, if we are resentful against another, there is a high probability of avoiding situations where we would meet them face to face. Hence, we avoid eating and praying together; and even though we live in the same house, we communicate with each other through text messages and phone calls, through our domestic staff or another person staying in the rectory/convent, or through notes which we slip through the door of our colleague. We go to the altar and preach about our enemies and those envious of us. Are we not really in bondage in our own house?
The Christian community entrusted to us suffers most from our inability to work together. A fact of life is that everybody has their admirers and, perhaps, fans. We cannot change this no matter how we try. Hence, refusing to work together will affect our respective admirers and supporters. Yes, when one feels threatened in the rectory or convent; when people are deprived of their rights including remuneration and proper feeding; when people are denigrated, they confide in parishioners to provide these needs. We are social beings by nature and “man must survive”.
Sadly, when the discussion with the laity is about the toxic situation in the rectory or convent, the inevitable question that follows is: “Father/Sister/Brother, is it the case that you do not… in the rectory/convent?” The response of the priest or religious or seminarian leads to a comment, “Na wa o”, what are you guys preaching to us then?
The first person in whom the priest/religious/seminarian confides, tells his or her friends. From there, the story spreads among his or her admirers in the community. As resentment grows, the community is divided. No matter what we do, they will see us from the eyes of the story of what they heard. Our homilies and exhortations sound to them like empty gongs. The situation undermines their participation in the sacraments and interest in Church activities, and reduces their donations to Church projects. We might assume that the people should know better. No, they do not know better; our words and actions largely influence them.
When conflicts escalate, we report them to the bishop or superior who worries about the scandal and how to resolve the situation. The angriest party is Jesus, who we work for.
The angriest party is Jesus, who we work for😡. As Jesus was furious with the Jewish leaders, so he is angry with us when we fight among ourselves to the detriment of the flock entrusted to us😡. Yes, we are consciously hurting his sheep and, as a good shepherd, he does not take this lightly (cf. Matthew 23)😡.
If Jesus asks me about my relationship with the person with whom he sent me to work in his vineyard, what will I answer?
Ka Chineke mezie okwu 🙏🏾