By Em Ee
26 September 2014
“And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.”
(The Bible, Matthew 23:9)
“Good afternoon,” said the corpulent man as he knocked on my door. “May I come in?”
But even before I could tell him that yes, he could come in, he was already inside!
“I’m Father Paul,” he introduced himself. “I am the bishop of….…. Ph.D. in Theology…university in America….”
I didn’t pay any heed to what the man was saying. My eyes were fixed on the giant silver cross that dangled from his neck.
“…lot of social work……..NGO….helping the poor….Jesus…..mission…salvation…ministry of love...” the man continued.
I nodded as he spoke, pretending to listen. I was in the middle of writing something when he had entered my room, and I really hate being disturbed at such times.
I didn’t bother to conceal my irritation. I’m not always a very good actor, you see.
It didn’t take much time for the man to get the message. I was emitting polite grunts but was typing away on my laptop and not looking at him.
“You seem to be busy,” he said. “I better go now. I have an important appointment.”
“Yes, brother,” I said, not hiding my relief.
“I’m FATHER Paul,” he retorted, looking at me in the eye.
“FATHER? You must be joking!” I shot back. “You certainly aren’t MY father! I have a father of my own, and I DEFINITELY don’t want to replace him with you, thank you very much,” I replied.
“Please be polite. That’s not the way to talk,” he retorted.
“Why, sir? I’m just stating a fact,” I replied. “You have a name, and if it is Paul, as you said it is, then that’s what I am going to call you—MISTER Paul. I, at least, don’t consider you to be a special creature of God or to have any special connection with Him, and so I don’t see why I should give you any special respect that I wouldn’t give to any other fellow being.”
“In our religion, our priests are called ‘Father’,” he mumbled, clutching his crucifix. “I’m sure you know that, since you’re educated.”
That was JUST the moment I was waiting for.
“And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and He is in heaven” I said, enunciating each word carefully.
I paused for a while to let the words sink in.
“These aren’t my words, as you might know,” I continued. “These are words that the Bible says were uttered by Jesus himself. Being a priest, I suppose you’ve read the Bible, MISTER Paul?”
I had memorized that sentence from the Bible many years ago. I knew it would come in handy—as it already had on a couple of occasions when I had quoted it to tell off some of those nauseating self-righteous, holier-than-thou types, folks who think they are God’s special representatives on earth.
You should have seen Mr. Paul at that moment, pathetically struggling to push the lid on his bottled-up anger!
“It’s really amazing, isn’t it?” I went on. “You can call all the people whom you say you revere—the prophets Jesus, Moses, Adam, Solomon and every other such figure in the Bible—by their first names and without any honorific titles, but you insist on being called ‘Father X’ or the ‘Holy Father’ or ‘Bishop A or B’, or ‘Revered C or D’! You don’t find anything wrong with people calling Jesus simply as ‘Jesus’, but if someone calls you ‘Paul’ or ‘Mr. Paul’, and not ‘FATHER Paul’, the heavens begin to tumble!”
“And let me clarify before you accuse me of being ‘communal’. I LOVE Jesus and that’s precisely why I just can’t stand the rubbish that many of those who claim to follow him do in his name.”
As I continued my harangue, Mr. Paul grabbed his bag and rushed out of the room, his long gown trailing behind him.
A fancy car drove up outside—one of those new, extra-large models. A smart driver hopped out to open the door and let Mr. Paul in.
As the car drove out of the porch, I noticed a big red board stuck on its rear, just above the number plate.
‘BISHOP’, it read, in big, bold letters.
And when I spotted that, I really had, as you can well imagine, the laugh of my life!