Summary: "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."
Thursday of 16th Week in Course
Have you ever heard someone–maybe even a preacher–express the idea that the God of the OT is a God of judgement and vengeance, and the God of Jesus is a God of mercy and love? Some of us may have held that opinion during our life. A famous early Christian preacher held that. His name was Marcion, and his followers were called Marcionites. He was a heretic. The mercy and love of God is a theme that weaves through both testaments. Here in Jeremiah we see Israel as a lump of clay being worked into something useful–a pot. If you’ve ever thrown clay and tried your hand at pottery, you know that a bad piece can be fixed. Just add water and knead it some more and throw it on the wheel again. Only after the pot has been fired can it not be reworked.
So during our life, repentance is always an option. Turning toward and accepting God’s mercy is always possible–think of the repentant thief dying next to Jesus on the cross. But at our death there will be a fish-sort. When we are part of that great daily catch of fish, the angels will claim the souls of the righteous for further purification and accession into the kingdom of heaven. The evil will go into everlasting fire. The only question God will ask of our soul is if we lived and died in love–love of God and love of neighbor. That is why we come to Mass and the sacraments–to repent of our sin and accept forgiveness and grace. And, for us preachers, that is why we stand up and declaim on the Word of God–to draw all who hear into a life of love.
The Holy Father, speaking on the joy of the Gospel, tells us that we must enjoy this process of discerning what God wants to say to us, and communicating it to you: ‘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 [as St. Paul tells the Corinthians]: “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”’
Please pray for me and for all preachers, that what we say will strengthen “the covenant between” you and your Lord, and that we serve as instrument and express our feelings so well that each of you want to continue the divine conversation.