I will call my favourite pastor Father Gracias to hide his true identity as his ordeal has not really ceased.
They disliked him since the day he set foot in the church. The exact reason was never made clear.
The prestigious cathedral serves a large community and is run by a body of high-profile volunteers. Social status and financial gravitas are prime prerequisites for church committee membership. How could such a resplendent cathedral be possibly managed by a lesser group of mortals?
One day behind closed doors the committee deliberated and came up with the verdict that Father Gracias was not up to the mark. They put paid to his attendance. Not only that, but they went to great lengths to discredit him.
If someone discredited Jesus to your eyes, would you believe him?
The wider community was left aghast. Because we all knew what Father Gracias did. He helped students with accommodation and work, he supported the poor, and he visited the sick in hospital.
But none of the highbrows tended to his sickness. For he was sick with pain for being rejected. Rejected for no apparent reason. Yet despite relentless defamation he carries on with his work. From his forced seclusion he helps those in need.
I often see him walking peacefully along, smiling to everyone, his eyes eager to meet people, to break away from the isolation. His parishioners rash to greet him. They want to know about his troubles, they are sincerely concerned. And they invariably offer help.
But the church staff stays aloof, distant and indifferent.
I once saw an “approved” priest park his spotless BMW outside the cathedral. The car “defined” him and he tended to it with extreme care. That priest was well accepted by the committee, his overall conduct never raised an eyebrow.
Where is Father Gracias? people ask me. Why doesn’t he show up in church? What has he done wrong?
Everyone wonders why such an innocent man is left on the sidelines. The answer rests with the “righteous”. Those who want to run the house of God according to their infallible rules.
A great philosopher once said that it is the way you live that defines your faith, not the words you speak. Father Gracias is a living testimony to all those who know him. A silent sufferer. A humble servant of God.
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