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.
Shalom for "haves and "have-nots"—Shalom can mean many things. But what we take it to mean is not accidental. The way we define it makes sense in the context of our lives. We define the word and use it—as we do all words—as a bearer of peculiar meanings that match up with our needs, hopes, fears, and visions. People who live in the midst of precariousness shape their vocabulary and their faith, their perceptions and their liturgy, in a distinctive way. One of the most important ways the Israelites expressed their faith was around the theme of"cry out, hear, and deliver. These are the "have-nots." Their form of faith was to cry out. God's form of presence and graciousness was to hear their cry, be moved by it, and act of deliver them from the trouble in which they found themselves.
I step away this week from the peace book by Brueggemann to focus on the call to Dominican women and men to take risks for the sake of the Gospel. I serve on the Board of Trustees for The Village of St. Edward, a Catholic institution that provides nursing care, assisted living, independent living, and community services. At yesterday’s board meeting, the director of The Village addressed us about the changing scene of care giving as a result of what is happening with health care in general. He challenged us to be willing to take risks in order that our elderly population be given the best care that can be provided. His focus on risk taking reminded me the words of Simon Tugwell, OP, "The Order, if it is to be true to its calling, has always to be re-inventing itself.