Pope Francis will cover preaching a bit later in Evangelii Gaudium (135-159) in the context of the larger concern of the proclamation of the Gospel in chapter three. EG 39 sets things up for us:
39. Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied. The integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed. What is more, each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message; in this context all of the truths are important and illumine one another. When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured!
For me, this has been one of the core messages in what I’ve read of Pope Francis these past nine months. For ourselves, encountering God unencumbered. And for our interaction with others, especially non-believers and inactive Christians, the key is maintaining an unblocked path.
All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.
Or worse, so many points that the Gospel is transformed into a minefield of quasi-Gnosticism, threatening a person with any number of dangers on the path to Christ.
The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel”.
And this is, admittedly, easier said than done. Many believers, over the years, accumulate moral shortcuts. and it is easy enough to cling to these, and pass them on to those we influence. Can we communicate a “fresh” Gospel? If not, perhaps the message is no longer pure and clean for us.