Brueggemann, in Chapter 3, decides of all the implied meanings in shalom to focus first on freedom: Jesus Christ frees. God intends freedom. It is clear to us all that our biblical story—our biblical faith—begins in the story of the exodus. Taken historically, that story is about how a band of Israelites were freed one wondrous night long ago. Taken theologically, it is the announcement of how God’s purpose for freedom intruded radically into history and redesigned the direction of history. Now history becomes the story of how God’s purpose for freedom made its powerful way in the affairs of persons and nations. Exodus has given us a model to understand that the key problem in human experience is the problem of oppression, embodied here in the Pharaoh.
Pope Francis concludes with three intertwining topics: Personalizing the Word, Lectio Divina, and an Ear to the People. In Personalizing the Word and Lectio Divina he makes it clear that we must allow the scripture to "penetrate (our) thoughts and feelings." Not only must we attentively walk through the Word but we must allow the Word to walk through us. People want to hear the Good News from a witness, or as put by homiletic writer George Sittler, someone who comes "still trembling from the encounter with the Word." Although we are humbled, even tempted to silence by our flaws, we keep "growing and wanting to grow,
Pope Francis suggests to us the kind of study and prayer which should be brought to preaching, and much of it is familiar to you. First, the call to contemplate: to take time,"a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection, and pastoral creativity," with the passage itself in prayer and study, striving to grasp its original meaning and intent using the biblical research now available to us. Additionally and of equal importance, is the time one gives to contemplate the Word in light of the people with whom one ministers. He asks for a "broad and profound sensitivity to what effects peoples' lives." This leads the pope into a discussion of the principal message of the text, and the principal effect of the text as it comes from the author.
Once upon a time, in the 13th century, Dominic visited the sisters at a convent near Rome, bringing with him a gift of spoons from Spain, one spoon for each sister. He had brought them personally from Spain, and presumably carried them across Europe himself. Actually, Dominic may have had his reasons for the gift. He was trying to persuade the sisters at Santa Maria outside of Rome to move to another convent, to St. Sixtus in Rome. The Pope wanted him to establish a reformed community. I don’t know if that was the motive for the gift giving, but it is often cited as an example of his tenderness.
I started out to summarize and reflect on the next section of Evangelii Gaudium, but have been so taken and moved by Francis's words that I am going to share with you directly from his text. I certainly cannot improve on the depth of his insights and the beauty of his language. He subtitles this portion of the text "Words which set hearts on fire."
142. Dialogue is much more than the communication of a truth. It arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words...
the memory of the faithful...should overflow with the wondrous things done by God...in the homily truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness…(the faithful) will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.
During the Notre Dame Conference on Preaching and Evangelization, Gregg Heille, OP, offered his reflections on the practice of preaching by Pope Francis, and noted in particular Francis' treatment of preaching in his document Evangelii Gaudium (E.G.). Francis, as we have experienced him, is a plain-spoken and pastoral homiletician. His direction is toward the needs of the world, with a definite commitment to the poor and neglected, his subject matter is clear and plain-spoken, even confrontative, but delivered with a certain gentleness, self-deprecation, and humility, and his overarching theme is mercy.
"MARY" "RABBOUNI!" I have called you by name—you are mine. My sheep know my voice…
Mary, whose eyes were dim with disappointment and blurred with grief and tears and whose imagination couldn’t reach as far as Risen from the dead--
Mistook Jesus the Christ for the gardener until he called her name. "Mary" he said, and his voice rang in her like a bell---opened ears she didn’t know she had, both stunned her and embraced her in depths she had never plumbed.
"RABBOUNI" she gasped, perhaps In a voice she didn’t recognize as her own. In that moment, all had changed. Jesus wasn’t just Jesus –and she was not plain Mary anymore
The conference "Preaching the Mystery of Faith and the New Evangelization" ( Notre Dame, June 2014), opened with the keynote address by Timothy Radcliffe, OP, who began his presentation with reflection on conversation, in his eyes, the most common and necessary tool of all evangelization. Christian dialogue, carried on in every arena imaginable - small scripture group to interfaith understanding to national policy - promises an event of grace; a participation in the ongoing dialogue of God with humanity, and the eternal conversation of the Trinity.
Last week I attended the national meeting of OP Promoters of Preaching, which we dovetailed with the 2014 Marten Program Conference: "Preaching the New Evangelization," June 25-27, 2014 at the University of Notre Dame. Our meeting was held on Wednesday afternoon, and the Conference opened on Wednesday evening.
After our check-in, introductions, and some business matters, we entered into a period of Lectio Divina and shared insights about our reflection on the scripture passage and how we tended to God's Word or were tended to by the Word.