Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, speaks now of “A mother’s conversation.”
Evangelizing itself–autoevangelization? No matter what you call it, Pope Francis asks up front how this notion should affect the Church’s preachers.
139. 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?
Mother to child, not mother to infant:
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.
Two important qualities I see in this relationship are love and dialogue. The Church has care and regard for its members. The notion of dialogue, as Pope Francis gives here, is important. “Listening to concerns” does not imply, as some pharisees or elder siblings might present, agreement. Listening to people involves hearing and perceiving the words. And more: hearing and perceiving the meanings and the motivations behind the words. Mothers–and fathers too–are called to be listeners, but discerning listeners.
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.
Question for clergy: How do you listen to “the heart of people” in your faith community?
Question for the larger Church: How do we speak in “mother culture” so as to draw people better disposed to listen to Christ’s message?