Summary: The two sources of the scribe versed in the kingdom of God are Moses and Jesus

Thursday of 17th week in course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

“Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” We need to see the revolutionary idea in this short and familiar quotation of Jesus. The term “scribe” is shorthand for “scholar of the Law,” one who researches and expands upon the words of Torah. How this was done in first-century Judea and Galilee is a bit complex. The scribe would read, in the original Hebrew, the words he saw in the first five books of the OT. Then he would read, in what we now call the Mishnah and Talmud, rabbinic commentaries on the text. He would discuss what he learned with his mentor, another scribe or rabbi. Then, perhaps a few months later, he would write his own commentary, with citations of those rabbis he called on for support. And he would spice his commentaries with those quotations, “as reb Shammi said” or “as reb Jacob wrote.”

The scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven–the kingdom of God–were fundamentally different, because the only two sources they would quote are the sacred scriptures themselves and the Son of God, Jesus. Jesus is the new treasure and the words of Moses are the old. That’s why we respect both parts of Scripture and call them the OT and NT. And this respect for both is what the Holy Father calls on when writing to preachers. I believe the next couple of paragraphs right here in the center of his encyclical are his own meditations on preaching, and they come right from Pope Francis’ heart. They remind us at once that preaching is a dialogue with the people of God:

‘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. This is an enrichment which does not consist in objects but in persons who share themselves in dialogue. 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 which takes place in the homily and possesses a quasi-sacramental character: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). In the homily, truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness. Far from dealing with abstract truths or cold syllogisms, it communicates the beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practise of good. The memory of the faithful, like that of Mary, should overflow with the wondrous things done by God. Their hearts, growing in hope from the joyful and practical exercise of the love which they have received, will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.

‘The challenge of an inculturated preaching consists in proclaiming a synthesis, not ideas or detached values. Where your synthesis is, there lies your heart. The difference between enlightening people with a synthesis and doing so with detached ideas is like the difference between boredom and heartfelt fervor. The preacher has the wonderful but difficult task of joining loving hearts, the hearts of the Lord and his people. The dialogue between God and his people further strengthens the covenant between them and consolidates the bond of charity. In the course of the homily, the hearts of believers keep silence and allow God to speak. The Lord and his people speak to one another in a thousand ways directly, without intermediaries. But in the homily they want someone to serve as an instrument and to express their feelings in such a way that afterwards, each one may chose how he or she will continue the conversation. The word is essentially a mediator and requires not just the two who dialogue but also an intermediary who presents it for what it is, out of the conviction that “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5).

‘To speak from the heart means that our hearts must not just be on fire, but also enlightened by the fullness of revelation and by the path travelled by God’s word in the heart of the Church and our faithful people throughout history. This Christian identity, as the baptismal embrace which the Father gave us when we were little ones, makes us desire, as prodigal children – and favorite children in Mary – yet another embrace, that of the merciful Father who awaits us in glory. Helping our people to feel that they live in the midst of these two embraces is the difficult but beautiful task of one who preaches the Gospel.’

This is a stout command to us preachers. We are to help people feel the divine hugs encompass their lives. Pray for us sinner preachers that we may do just that for you.

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