Pope Francis cites a recent predecessor in suggesting a “personal familiarity” with the Word of God. What does this mean? If there is a hope for Christian believers to have an intimate relationship with Christ, then the preachers of the Church must certainly cultivate this in themselves.
This post begins three days of looking at “Personalizing the word.”
149. The preacher “ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic or exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him”.[JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 26: AAS 84 (1992), 698.]
How do we invite the heart into matters of the mind? Pope John Paul II is suggesting a wholesome and holistic integration, not a segmentation of aspects of the spiritual life.
It is good for us to renew our fervor each day and every Sunday as we prepare the homily, examining ourselves to see if we have grown in love for the word which we preach. Nor should we forget that “the greater or lesser degree of the holiness of the minister has a real effect on the proclamation of the word”.[Ibid., 25: AAS 84 (1992), 696]
And what kind of friends to Christ are preachers who only approach the Word when they want something? An insight or a hook for a message, or some intellectual nugget to pass on to show off a bit of cleverness.
As Saint Paul says, “we speak, not to please (people), but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Th 2:4).
Preachers certainly don’t speak to please themselves either.
If we have a lively desire to be the first to hear the word which we must preach, this will surely be communicated to God’s faithful people, for “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34). The Sunday readings will resonate in all their brilliance in the hearts of the faithful if they have first done so in the heart of their pastor.