EG 142: Words Which Set Hearts On Fire

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis refers to Luke 24:13-35, the experience of the disiples walking to Emmaus, and how the Lord spoke so movingly and gracefully so as to set their hearts on fire. Let’s explore in Evangelium Gaudium this notion over the next three sections.

Some Catholics are focused on the truth. And this is proper. There’s a lot of avoidance of truth-telling, and it’s epidemic both in the Church and outside of it. Pope Francis suggests something deeper is needed.

Right off the bat, we’re talking about the homily as a dialogue, by definition:

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. 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).

Small-s sacrament. But an encounter with Christ all the same. This would be a personal encounter, not mediated through reason, morals, or theology. Those things–important things–are the tools used, but not the core of the communication.

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.

Of course. The homily is located in the liturgy. The encounter with Christ on the road to Emmaus was essentially a liturgical event. Beauty and goodness are inherent in good liturgy, but not necessarily part of a lecture on theology, faith, or morals.

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.

Remembering: this was part of the experience of the Emmaus disciples, part of the recollection of the apostles, and at the very core of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Why shouldn’t the homily be more akin to these elements of tradition from the New Testament and from the Mass? And less like a lecture.

Does a dialogue with a beloved motivate more than a talking-to from a parent? Even kids would say yes to that.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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