Pope Francis, in this and the following two sections of Evangelii Gaudium, addresses the first of five preparation principles, the “Reverence for truth.”
146. The first step, after calling upon the Holy Spirit in prayer, is to give our entire attention to the biblical text, which needs to be the basis of our preaching. Whenever we stop and attempt to understand the message of a particular text, we are practicing “reverence for the truth”.[Evangelii Nuntiandi 78]
Right away, two things strike me. First, that our first encounter is always an attempt. We cannot hope to master the message of God on our own. We’ll explore this a bit more later in the post.
Second, note the reference here and later: Pope Paul VI’s document on evangelization. Pope Francis’ perspective gives nod certainly to liturgy and theology. But it is essentially an evangelical root which draws nourishment for the topic here.
This is the humility of heart which recognizes that the word is always beyond us, that “we are neither its masters or owners, but its guardians, heralds and servants”.[Evangelii Nuntiandi 78]
Humility makes the preacher aware of the personal dangers involved here:
This attitude of humble and awe-filled veneration of the word is expressed by taking the time to study it with the greatest care and a holy fear lest we distort it.
Patience is needed. And more: the preacher needs personal commitment:
To interpret a biblical text, we need to be patient, to put aside all other concerns, and to give it our time, interest and undivided attention. We must leave aside any other pressing concerns and create an environment of serene concentration. It is useless to attempt to read a biblical text if all we are looking for are quick, easy and immediate results. Preparation for preaching requires love. We only devote periods of quiet time to the things or the people whom we love; and here we are speaking of the God whom we love, a God who wishes to speak to us. Because of this love, we can take as much time as we need, like every true disciple: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9).
Does a patient preacher experience this serenity? Remember the citation here from 1 Samuel; it is a youth who is schooled to say this to the Lord. I also like the very Ignatian approach of seeing the encounter with the Word as part of a loving relationship with a person, and not just the truth alone. In other words, it’s not just about the information, but the relationship.