Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: "I believe that the secret lies in the way Jesus looked at people, seeing beyond their weaknesses and failings"

Thursday of 15th Week in Course

Wisdom is depicted as having a feminine nature; from that the Fathers of the Church applied much of what we read in the Book of Wisdom either to the Blessed Virgin Mary or to the Church. But that has more to do with linguistics than theology. In Greek, the word wisdom is Sophia, which has a Greek feminine ending. In parallel, the Latin word for church is ecclesia, also in Greek, and that, too, is a feminine word. But to see the Church as a mother, and as a conduit for Holy Wisdom, is a great theological pivot, one we should never forget.

The Holy Father has been sharing his thoughts about how preachers should be sharing the joy of the Gospel. ‘We said that the people of God, by the constant inner working of the Holy Spirit, is constantly evangelizing itself. What are the implications of this principle for preachers? It reminds us that the Church is a mother, and that she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child, knowing that the child trusts that what she is teaching is for his or her benefit, for children know that they are loved. Moreover, a good mother can recognize everything that God is bringing about in her children, she listens to their concerns and learns from them. The spirit of love which reigns in a family guides both mother and child in their conversations; therein they teach and learn, experience correction and grow in appreciation of what is good. Something similar happens in a homily. The same Spirit who inspired the Gospels and who acts in the Church also inspires the preacher to hear the faith of the God’s people and to find the right way to preach at each Eucharist. Christian preaching thus finds in the heart of people and their culture a source of living water, which helps the preacher to know what must be said and how to say it. Just as all of us like to be spoken to in our mother tongue, so too in the faith we like to be spoken to in our “mother culture,” our native language (cf. 2 Macc 7:21, 27), and our heart is better disposed to listen. This language is a kind of music which inspires encouragement, strength and enthusiasm.

‘This setting, both maternal and ecclesial, in which the dialogue between the Lord and his people takes place, should be encouraged by the closeness of the preacher, the warmth of his tone of voice, the unpretentiousness of his manner of speaking, the joy of his gestures. Even if the homily at times may be somewhat tedious, if this maternal and ecclesial spirit is present, it will always bear fruit, just as the tedious counsels of a mother bear fruit, in due time, in the hearts of her children.

‘One cannot but admire the resources that the Lord used to dialogue with his people, to reveal his mystery to all and to attract ordinary people by his lofty teachings and demands. I believe that the secret lies in the way Jesus looked at people, seeing beyond their weaknesses and failings: “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32); Jesus preaches with that spirit. Full of joy in the Spirit, he blesses the Father who draws the little ones to him: “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Lk 10:21). The Lord truly enjoys talking with his people; the preacher should strive to communicate that same enjoyment to his listeners.’

Before we leave these Scriptures, let me point out one connection in the Gospel that we might shrug off or ignore. We are they. We are the “they” referred to in the last line: “they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” Note that the preaching of the gospel is tied directly to healing. We see this frequently in the Acts of the Apostles. This world is sick, and is hurting. Moreover, it is turning away from Jesus Christ and the Church, which is/are the only source of true fundamental healing. So as we do the gospel, and occasionally speak the gospel, let’s do so with the primary goal of spreading joy and healing, especially through forgiveness and mercy.

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