Well this has been an interesting post to write…
I don’t often block people, or get blocked myself on Facebook. I’ve only ever blocked maybe three people, and been blocked four times including this morning. But I guess when you speak truth, people don’t like to hear it. Whether that’s someone you thought was a friend, or a world-famous Catholic priest!
Yep. I was blocked from commenting on a post by Father Jim Sichko, a priest out of Lexington, Kentucky. He’s known as the “Missionary of Mercy” on social media circles. He’s met the Pope, several celebrities, and has done all sorts of things for the poor and disadvantaged. I think overall he seems to be a very good man. He seems like a nice guy and is a very powerful preacher! He came to my home church in Carey, Ohio once and gave an absolutely FANTASTIC homily (sermon) on why showing respect by staying during the whole Mass and participating in it is so important. He was like a breath of fresh air. He woke us up!
But for all of the good things he does, there’s one thing I can’t stand: Every time he does something good for somebody else, he posts about it on social media. Not occasionally like a normal human being. ALL. THE TIME. I’m not jealous of him or envious that he’s being seen by others. I would honestly hate that kind of attention most of the time. People do need to see good things being done in our broken, dark world. But where I have a problem, is that he could do all the things he does with the money he has, entirely in secret. He doesn’t need to toot his own horn. If he does nice things, and is recognized by the people he helped, great! People need to see Christlike love more often! But drawing attention to oneself reminds me of Matthew 6:1-4, in which Jesus is warning people not to be like the Pharisees. He says:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Here’s a screenshot of the post that got me blocked. I apologize for the blurry photo. But you can probably still read what it says: Father Sichko talks about giving to others by helping bury the father of the two kids in the picture, and then buying their steers and donating the meat to charity.
I’ve been quiet in the past and just scrolled on by when he does stuff like this, occasionally rolling my eyes at it. But I couldn’t stand by anymore. Something got into me last night. Perhaps it was the tone with which he posted it, like “look at me! See all the good I am doing for others?” Or maybe it was the fact that everyone was praising him, and nobody was politely calling him out for clearly going against what Jesus says. Perhaps it was also the way he seemed to brag about helping pay for another person’s funeral? Who does that? If I had the money to help pay for a funeral, I wouldn’t be telling anyone I paid for it. Let alone blast it all over social media! Humility and some respect for the dead and their family is more important than getting a pat on the back over social media!
I rarely call people out. Mostly because I know I am a sinner too, and somebody somewhere could definitely remind me of a time I was far, far less than Christlike. There have been loads of those times where I haven’t been acting or living like a Christian. I am often wrong, stubborn, sinful, and human rather than like Jesus.
But every once in a long while, I think I discover what it means to be righteously angry, and that not following or respecting Jesus needs called out in society. And anyone can and should be called out. Even famous people in positions of authority. People need to be held accountable.
So after I saw Father Sichko’s post, I calmed myself and politely was like, “Father Jim, what you do for people is great 🙂 But do you think Jesus would be happy with how you’re going about it? Reread Matthew 6:1-4. I want your take on it.”
I was nervous after I posted it. After all, the mob on Facebook doesn’t take too kindly to some average Joe from Ohio challenging a famous person. Let alone a priest who should be and probably is, far more well-versed in Scripture than I am. But I felt it needed to be said. So I went to bed after posting that, nervous that I had opened a massive can of worms.
I checked my Facebook notifications this morning, bracing myself for the onslaught of angry, indignant comments. “How dare you criticize a priest?! He does so much more good for others than you can, or will ever do!” But as I checked it, I didn’t see any angry responses. I actually saw two likes from a couple people who agreed with me. So I was relieved. But then something very interesting happened. Father Jim responded to my post. But unfortunately when I checked to see what he said, I saw this:
Yep. He went there. Instead of having a dialogue with me on whether or not my thinking was correct, or answering my question, Father Jim made it so I couldn’t go back and forth with him on his post. It may be a small instance on Facebook. But that told me a LOT about a bunch of things: His character, whether or not I was right in calling him out, and just how much the Catholic Church worries about threats to good PR, or somebody making them look bad. I understand that I am a nobody in the grand scheme of things. Nobody’s going to put the entire Church on notice with one simple Facebook comment, and I am not a threat to the Church. I’m one man. But if I’m not a threat and Father Jim was following Jesus, he should’ve responded to me and allowed me to do so as well. I would still gladly welcome a conversation with him! But unfortunately he’s made it so I can only like or share his posts, and not comment on them.
Which brings me to a larger point: The Catholic Church needs called out on hypocrisy and held accountable for when they don’t follow Jesus. I am not here to destroy Catholicism. I actually think it’s a very beautiful part of the Christian faith when practiced right. And thank God for my Dad, Mom, and Grandma for all guiding me and raising me in my faith as a Christian. Their love for the Roman Catholic faith has deeply influenced my own walk with Jesus, and the man I am today. They’ve passed that love on to me.
Although truly loving one’s faith does not always mean being happy with what those in leadership positions are doing. Sometimes there needs to be someone who’s like “Wait a minute, where did Jesus say to do that or act like that?” And sometimes there needs to also be righteous anger that comes from a place of love. The same sort of anger that Jesus showed when He drove the money changers out of the Temple. I cannot know His mind obviously, but something tells me that Jesus deeply, deeply loved His Jewish faith and being at the Temple. So you can imagine how horrified, shocked and downright livid He was when He saw people selling animals and making money in a holy place like that!
But when Jesus went off, what did the Pharisees do? They were simply like, “Who are you, to tell us this?!” Which is what I imagine Father Jim saying to me if I had been allowed to respond to correcting him with Scripture. After all, he’s the wise priest who spent years in seminary. And I’m just the farmboy who struggles to be a good man while still feeling like a relative baby in my walk with Jesus.
But that’s where the thinking needs to change. Nobody in authority should be above being corrected. Especially those who claim to represent God as His people on Earth. And the Catholic Church needs to focus more on helping others in secret. Without having to blast their good deeds all over cyberspace.