When war breaks out, it’s really not the time to be opinionated.
Audio version of this available here.
Forgive me, as the tone of this blog is definitely more assertive and authoritative than normal. At the same time, I do not intend to be authoritative. I have no right to that, and I’m not telling anyone to do anything. Instead, I’m reflecting on our reactions to things.
The problem that I am dialoguing with is speaking out of season. I have been evasive of writing about COVID-19 and its effect because, honestly, I’m over it. I cannot, however, deny, that this post is influenced by it.
This blog goes hand-in-hand with another blog: Divisive Language in the Church, but is just more specific.
Example 1: Sanctity and Reverence
A video has gone viral of what appears to be priests somewhere giving drive-thru Communion to their congregation. Let me list some facts:
- Someone videotaped it
- Someone posted it on social media
- Numerous people reacted in various ways but the only kinds I saw were:
- Look at how not spiritual those priests are for treating Eucharist with contempt
- hahaha the future of Church! Can we do drive-thru confession as well?
- What kind of priests are those? Do they really have such little regard for the Eucharist?
Guys, it’s not the time! مش وقته! The Church is going through a crisis, like the rest of the world is. Is this the time to, from the (dis)comfort of your home (literally), sit there and criticise? Is this the time to give your opinions, or to find a way to help? Should we share a video with the intent of getting a rise out of others?
Looked at in a very different way – those priests (if the video is even real) could easily say:
- This is not done in contempt, but because of how much we value Eucharist. We are adamant that everyone we can allow to partake, partakes, even if this is not the ideal!
- If drive-thru confession becomes the only way in which people can partake in such a necessary sacrament, then why not?
- I regard Eucharist as so vitally important that the idea of not allowing the people to partake is unbearable. I will commune them ‘drive-thru’ style if it’s the only legal way to give it to them! It’s not’s about drive-thru it’s about communing people!
I am not in any way, shape or form, giving my own opinion on the matter. Honestly. I’m putting both sides only to convey that when everyone functions from the operative that their own views and responses are absolutely correct, then there’s an ego issue going on.
But more importantly, it’s not the time, مش وقته! Is this the time to evaluate everything? The Church has a system. Those priests have bishops to whom they answer. Let them answer to their bishops, not to you. The middle of a crisis is not the time to be evaluating the responses and outcomes.
Example 2: Emotionalism
Some Churches are allowing more people to sign up for Liturgy attendance. Other priests are saying they will not. Still others are saying until my people can commune, I will not commune. Others are saying, if I can get it to anyone at all, I will get it to anyone at all.
Reactions (and I don’t mean internal reactions, I mean verbal and written expressions on social media):
- Yeah, I bet the richest people will be the ones to get into the Church!
- Of course our priest isn’t allowing us to Commune, to him this is totally vacation. Story of his life.
- Look how bad the priests are who are giving out Communion! They don’t care about their people the way our priest cares about his people! They should be spoken to! Thank God our priest is actually spiritual and socially responsible!
- Our priest is a saint putting his life out to get communion to everyone, too bad others don’t have a priest like ours!
- Our priest is messed up, he’s breaking the law, and someone should put him in his place!
Guys, it’s not the time. مش وقته. Your personal feelings about your priests and other priests – this isn’t the time to air them. There’s a crisis going on, and every person, cleric or laity, is struggling with what to do. Each person has a conscience to which to some extent they are accountable. Who are you or I, to take the opportunity to pontificate our personal emotional response as though we are right, as though we understand, as though we know all the circumstances in which the priest finds himself?
What if the priest:
- Is immunocompromised himself?
- Knows someone who died because of someone’s carelessness and is afraid of killing people?
- Really just doesn’t want to do any work during this time and appear outwardly spiritual?
- Feels so guilty that he is able to receive Eucharist that he’s looking for ways of making sure that even a handful of people receive it as well?
I’m not trying to defend, agree or disagree, but to say neither you nor I know all the details of anyone’s situation. So we should not draw out blanket statements about what we think is going on.
More importantly: it’s not the time. مش وقته. This is not the time for us to criticise everything that anyone is doing. We’re in a hard situation, it’s not the time to bring your personal grievances to the forefront of a public crisis.
Example 3: Armchair Preachers and Theologians
A video of how to take the Body and the Blood was circulated. It showed methods of how to tilt your head to receive Eucharist without touching Abouna’s hand or the spoon (misteer).
Some reactions included:
- It’s about time someone acknowledged that Eucharist can make you sick, it does have physical properties after all!
- I can’t believe they’re suggesting that Eucharist can make you sick.
- This video shows what lack of faith the hierarchs themselves have and the people who follow this. I will refuse to partake in protest.
- This is the dumbest video I’ve ever seen.
- Thank God this video finally came out, we really needed someone to teach others a lesson.
- This is why I’ve been saying for years that the hierarchs are so theologically uneducated.
I could go on, because there were very many reactions to this one. I’ll refrain for the sake of my own peace.
- The point is not that Eucharist can make you sick, but that some people are very afraid of contact and this method helps a person have more peace?
- The hierarchs are not suggesting by the technique that the Eucharist can make you sick?
- That the hierarchs are doing this in economia? As an act of mercy?
I won’t respond to or list all the what if’s, because in this example what I wish to comment on is not the video, its intentions, or the mindset of those who produced it. Instead, it’s the mentality exhibited in the response. When you use this as your time to commentate and teach, you’re freeloading off of a terrible situation for whatever ambition you have. You assume to know the mindset and factors that went into whatever proclamation is made, and start speaking absolutely.
As my own Bishop asked in a clergy meeting: why do we smell the wine and inspect the bread in Liturgy? Because we want to make sure that we don’t consume rotten or spoiled wine or bread! The Church always cares about the safety and health of those present. Why am I citing this response? To show that it is conceivable that someone is doing something that you interpret to be for some reason, for a totally different reason. Yet you used it as a chance to take the role of teacher.
It’s not the time – مش وقته – to act as an armchair theologian, nor is it the time to point out which person you’ve always believed to be un-illumined or unenlightened. This is not the time to give your preaching of Eucharist with a critical lens. It’s not the time. مش وقته.
It’s not the Time. مش وقته.
The point of all of this is not to rant. Imagine if your friend is in ICU and there’s a big debate going on about whether to remove the ventilator or not. Will you sit there commenting about how poor the menu for patients is at the hospital? It’s not the time.
Imagine if you’re in the middle of a family financial crisis, and you ask your dad to buy you a new car. It’s not the time.
Consider the situation where your dad is accused of a crime, and you believe that he had it coming. When your dad is being processed at the jail, it’s not the time, to tell him that. So even if you think that you saw it coming, guys, it’s not the time. مش وقته. Even if you think we’re all messed up, it’s not the time. I would say, even if you’re right, it’s not the time at all. .مش وقته خالص
Our Lord rarely called out the wrong He saw in the world during His earthly life. He did sometimes. I’m not suggesting that there’s never a time to speak; I’m saying this is not the time for certain kinds of reactions.
What should we do?
As Christians, we’re called to have Christian responses at all times. We need to behave as our Lord did at all times. Before criticising, before commenting, before saying your views on everything, ask yourself:
- Why am I speaking?
- Is it my place to speak?
- Was I asked to speak?
- What am I assuming about the people or the circumstances? Do I even know if I’m right?
- Will what I wish to say bring anyone more peace?
- Will what I say cause anyone unholy distress, anguish or frustration?
- Am I massaging my ego or practicing self-denial with what I say?
- Are my intentions holy?
- Am I pontificating or dialoguing?
- Is it the right time to have this dialogue?
There are many other questions, but those are a starting point. Reflect on this before you speak:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …Ecclesiastes 3:1
This is not a message to laity from a clergyman. This is as much relevant to myself and other clergy, because clergy are guilty of this, perhaps more guilty of this than everyone else.
We are a family. When a family has a crisis, we should be supportive of one another and refrain from provocations so that we can navigate through the crisis. Our leaders are being quite literally forced into very difficult situations that are exceptionally difficult to navigate. They could use our support more than our cynicism. Our people can use comfort instead of antagonism. We could all enjoy peace more than animosity.
I also mean this beyond Church issues. I’ve used church examples in this blog – but we should reflect on everything. This is not the time to be mean to my parents, kids or spouse or sibling. Now is not the time to be demanding things in the house – money, attention, anything. Now is the time to give, not demand.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Php 4:8
All of us could use a lot of love and prayer right now. We should all be, as Christ taught us, serving one another. It’s always the time for that.
May God grant us a spirit of unity, humility, and love.