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The Proclamation of the Gospel
The “Joy of the Gospel” is essentially about proclaiming the Good News (gospel) of Jesus Christ.
In this chapter Pope Francis reminds us that this is the task of the Church. And whilst it is the task of the entire people of God to do so, they are helped in this by their pastors through the homily. He gives some forthright advice on the homily and the preparation needed to preach. He finishes by asserting that the announcement of the core message of Jesus Christ is the prerequisite for all other catechetical work.
I. THE ENTIRE PEOPLE OF GOD PROCLAIMS THE GOSPEL
Evangelisation is the task of the
The Church... is more than an organic and hierarchical institution; she is first and foremost a people advancing on its pilgrim way towards God.
A people for everyone
respond to God who reaches out and calls us. This is the essential
dynamic of our relationship with God, which enables us to live lives
unites himself to every
human being, but he does this in the context of a people in
No one can be unselfish on their own, nor by their own unaided efforts.This community (the Church) is called to take this message to the whole world.
The Church is not an exclusive club. It is simply all those who choose to respond to God's call. We say this to all men and women with respect and love.(114) Being Church means being God’s people. A community in which mercy is offered and where everyone feels welcomed, loved, forgiven and affirmed
A people of many faces
In effect being a people, whose members relate to each other and follow particular lifestyles, involves the development of a culture, unique to each tribe or nation.
It should be no surprise that the way in which the Gospel is received reflects the local culture into which it is proclaimed.
The diversity of expressions of Christian faith is a mark of the universality of the Gospel message and a richness for the Church itself.
The Gospel message is intended for all peoples. It transcends any one cultural expression,since it reflects the action of the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of all peoples, distributing his gifts.
Our efforts in presenting the gospel to new hearers should reflect this insight, a logical consequence of the incarnation, and respect the variety of local cultures.
We cannot expect any one culture to have a monopoly. (118)...It is an indisputable fact that no single culture can exhaust the mystery of our redemption in Christ.
We are all missionary disciples
people of God (the baptised) enjoy the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit, and this gives them an instinct for discerning “what
is truly of God”.
By virtue of belonging to the people of God, the baptised (120) have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). Evangelisation is not simply a job for professional evangelists. We are not just passive recipients. Each one according to their circumstances is called to share their faith: to be a missionary disciple.
The starting point for us as evangelisers is the realisation that the Lord gives meaning to our lives . (121) In your heart you know that it is not the same to live without him; what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others.
Whilst we should welcome and even seek training, it is our own experience and sharing in the experience of others that is the first trainer. We shouldn't put off starting for lack of formal training!.
As Saint PAUL says: “Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil 3:12-13).
The evangelising power of popular piety
Popular piety has not always had a good press. But if culture is taken seriously then
(122) Culture is a dynamic reality which a people constantly recreates;
If a people has been evangelised, transmitting culture transmits faith.
(122) One can say that “a people continuously evangelises itself”.
Popular piety often associated with the poor and less esteemed in society reveals an innate spirituality, revealed (124) more by way of symbols than by discursive reasoning...
We have to recognise the extent of real faith to be found in those who pray a rosary, light a candle, reverence the crucifix or visit a shrine. It is a faith which has.... (126) an active evangelising power which we must not underestimate: to do so would be to fail to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit.
Person to person
One to one evangelisation is something open to us on a daily basis. It is the informal preaching which takes place over coffee, on the bus, at work.
As much as anything it follows from an awareness of opportunities to bring our experience of God's love to the attention of our listener. The approach is always gentle. A dialogue has to be established at the level of shared concerns, hopes and needs.
(128) Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word and the personal love of God who became man.
Our speaking is best done in our own words! After the initial dialogue we may well be able to offer solidarity in prayer. What we say and do will depend on our local culture.
Charisms at the service of a communion [fellowship] which evangelises
The Holy Spirit has given a variety of gifts to all the people of God for the work of evangelising. These gifts are not the guarded property of an elite group, rather they are widely distributed for the good of all.
Guided by the Holy Spirit we can overcome perceived differences and create a unity within our church, which can be a model for the world.
Culture, thought and education
The Gospel message is intended to reach professional, scientific and academic circles.
need a positive engagement with people in this sector.
Only through this dialogue will we find new approaches to reaching today's world more effectively.
Theologians have an important part to play in this dialogue, so that we can more effectively
(133)... bring the Gospel message to different cultural contexts and groups.
Positive interaction with schools and universities will further this aim.
II. THE HOMILY
Catholics the main source of teaching is the weekly homily, preaching
within the liturgy,at
the Sunday mass.
Pope Francis says (135) The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. Preaching has to be restored.
The preacher must know that he is reaching today's listeners with today's presentation of the truths of the Gospel.
The listeners must expect to hear a relevant account of the teaching Jesus gave his hearers, with application to today's circumstances.
The liturgical context
homily is presented in the context of the Eucharist, where it is
a dialogue between God and his
The homily is not entertainment, but it needs to give (138)... life and meaning to the celebration. The balance and rhythm of the liturgy require the homily to be controlled in length and focused on the Lord.
A mother’s conversation
giver of the homily is like a mother who understands her children,
listens to their
concerns, and, speaking from the heart, guides them to embrace life
to the full.
The preacher must appear at ease with what he says, speaking with warmth and evident joy. Like the Lord, the preacher should see beyond perceived and actual weaknesses and failings in his listeners.
(141)The Lord truly enjoys talking with his people; the preacher should strive to communicate that same enjoyment to his listeners.
Words which set hearts on fire
on the theme of homily as dialogue, a key element is the expression
of love through words.
(142)...A preaching which would be purely moralistic or doctrinaire, or one which turns into a lecture on biblical exegesis, detracts from this heart-to-heart communication …
The homily should be a source of hope, where …. each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.
The homily works when what is said speaks to the heart as well as the head: it works when what is said can be integrated into the lives of the listeners.
The homily is effective when it supports and encourages the ongoing communications between God and his people.
The good preacher must truly speak from a heart on fire. But his is a heart not only steeped in scripture and tradition, but acutely aware of the mercy which the heavenly Father offers to all.
III. PREPARING TO PREACH
Reading of commentaries on the text is compulsory! (147)... the biblical text which we study is two or three thousand years old; its language is very different from that which we speak today.
(145) Preparation for preaching is so important a task that a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection and pastoral creativity should be devoted to it.
Reverence for truth
Francis tells preachers to ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to give full attention to the biblical text and to be full of awe and reverence for it.
(147) Even if we think we understand the words translated into our own language, this does not mean that we correctly understand what the sacred author wished to say. Moreover he says beware of isolating individual texts from their surrounds and the rest of the scriptures. The Holy Spirit has inspired all the Bible, which sets out to reveal who God is, not to provide human anecdotes.
Personalizing the word
Again the preacher must “own” the Word. Only when it has spoken to his heart, can he speak it convincingly to his listeners, even if he has done his other preparation.
Today witnesses are more effective than teachers. Preachers cannot use a text to demand of others what they do not ask of themselves. (151)...What is essential is that the preacher be certain that God loves him, that Jesus Christ has saved him... And that it is obvious to his listeners. Whilst the listeners expect honest endeavour in the preacher's personal life, conviction trumps perfection in this area.
Francis not surprisingly recommends using lectio divina as a
form of preparation.(152)
It consists of reading God’s word in a
moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us.
We allow God to speak to us through the text. Indeed we are encouraged to explore how we are reacting to the text.(153)...it is good to ask, for example: “Lord, what does this text say to me?...What troubles me about this text?...What attracts me?
An ear to the people
(154) The preacher also needs to keep his ear to the people and to discover what it is that the faithful need to hear.
preacher has to address this people, at this time, in this culture.
What are their questions?...He needs
to be able to link the message of a biblical text to a human
What we are looking for is “what the Lord has to say in this or that particular circumstance”.
Much sensitivity is needed to ensure that homilies address what really affects peoples lives. There is no point in scratching where they don't itch.
It's not enough to know what ought to be said. Attention must be paid to how it should be said. Such a concern is indeed a spiritual duty: a response to the love of God.
(156) In the Bible, for example, we can find advice on how to prepare a homily so as to best to reach people: “Speak concisely, say much in few words” (Sir 32:8).
(157) One of the most important things is to learn how to use images in preaching,....
A good homily, an old teacher once told me, should have “an idea, a sentiment, an image.”
The homily must be (158) ….simple, clear, direct, well-adapted”.
Technical words may not be understood by the typical hearer. We must avoid speaking only to ourselves. We have to understand our hearers and adapt our language to their circumstances.
We owe it to our listeners to bring clarity. Organisation and logical progression are virtues.
(159) Another feature of a good homily is that it is positive.
There is enough negativity all around. There is little need to dwell on it. We need encouragement in doing the better.
IV. EVANGELISATION AND THE DEEPER UNDER STANDING OF THE KERYGMA [The initial proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour]
Personal relationship with the Lord is an essential response to the Gospel call. Evangelisation implies an ongoing process of developing this relationship. It must respect in each person the idea of …(160) God’s plan for his or her life.
than just doctrinal formation: it's
It's a matter of responding to the Lord's love and developing a
pattern of life....(161)
“observing” all that the Lord has
Kerygmatic and mystagogical catechesis
(163) Education and catechesis are at the service of this growth.
They will only produce growth when they build on initial conversion.
This requires recognition of a process which is ongoing and has to be treated accordingly.
They are going deeper into the mysteries...(mystagogia)
We must remember that all this is set in the context of a faith community, and the community must be involved in supporting and sustaining the individuals progress.
in the form of the arts is
a tool which can be usefully used to draw the individual towards
Christ. And finally the moral
component should draw the individual towards
(168)... the ideal of a life of wisdom, self-fulfilment and enrichment.
Personal accompaniment in processes of growth
A careful path has to be chosen between ignoring the individual and being overly curious.
Accompaniment recognises the need for deference towards the one accompanied. They must be lead closer to God, as befits pilgrims. We must encourage listening, on an ongoing basis. A non judgemental companion open to the Gospel has much to teach us on our journey.
Centred on the word of God
(174) The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized.
In this the word of God has to be at the heart of activity. All the faithful have to have access to the Scriptures, and must be encouraged to study and pray them. They contain in a unique way God's revelation of himself.