Evangelii Gaudium 14
I have stated before that there is no substitute for reading this entire document and that even my selections are subjective. In this instance, my selections are also editorial!
I will comment after he speaks: “138… This context demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention.” The Lord Jesus, not the priest, is the center of attention. While this may seem obvious, there is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved. Like John the Baptist, the priest should prepare the way for Christ but not get in the way of Christ. He should be warm and natural but he should not draw attention to himself. His first mission is to pray the Mass and thus to lead people in prayer.
Pope Francis returns to the role of the preacher later on in this section: “154. The preacher also needs to keep his ear to the people and to discover what it is that the faithful need to hear. A preacher has to contemplate the word, but he also has to contemplate his people. In this way he learns ‘of the aspirations, of riches and limitations, of ways of praying, of loving, of looking at life and the world, which distinguish this or that human gathering,’ while paying attention ‘to actual people, to using their language, their signs and symbols, to answering the questions they ask’. He needs to be able to link the message of a biblical text to a human situation, to an experience which cries out for the light of God’s word. This interest has nothing to do with shrewdness or calculation; it is profoundly religious and pastoral.”
He speaks of this in a practical manner: “155. In this effort we may need but think of some ordinary human experience such as a joyful reunion, a moment of disappointment, the fear of being alone, compassion at the sufferings of others, uncertainty about the future, concern for a loved one, and so forth. But we need to develop a broad and profound sensitivity to what really affects other people’s lives. Let us also keep in mind that we should never respond to questions that nobody asks. Nor is it fitting to talk about the latest news in order to awaken people’s interest; we have television programmes for that. It is possible, however, to start with some fact or story so that God’s word can forcefully resound in its call to conversion, worship, commitment to fraternity and service, and so forth. Yet there will always be some who readily listen to a preacher’s commentaries on current affairs, while not letting themselves be challenged.”
So we can skip the weekly references to the Yankees and the Mets or to food or to humor. And personal stories should serve the mission of evangelization, not draw attention to the preacher. In ministry situations it is often good to ask the question: Whose needs are being met – the needs of the minister or the needs of the person being served? This is true in particular when visiting the sick. To say: “It’s no big deal” is to address my anxiety about illness, not the situation the patient is facing. To say: “You will be fine” might ignore the obvious fact that the person is dying. Again, whose needs are being met? The same is true for the preacher/celebrant. He stands there in the person of Jesus Christ. What could be more humbling and yet more of a privilege for such an earthen vessel?
You can access the document at www.vatican.va and then click on Apostolic Exhortations.