How can preachers put some of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium advice to work? EG 152-153 explore “spiritual reading.” Everybody has her or his own take on what that means. Pope Francis suggests an openness to personal transformation.
152. There is one particular way of listening to what the Lord wishes to tell us in his word and of letting ourselves be transformed by the Spirit. It is what we call lectio divina. It consists of reading God’s word in a moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us. This prayerful reading of the Bible is not something separate from the study undertaken by the preacher to ascertain the central message of the text; on the contrary, it should begin with that study and then go on to discern how that same message speaks to his own life. The spiritual reading of a text must start with its literal sense. Otherwise we can easily make the text say what we think is convenient, useful for confirming us in our previous decisions, suited to our own patterns of thought. Ultimately this would be tantamount to using something sacred for our own benefit and then passing on this confusion to God’s people. We must never forget that sometimes “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).
Look to the “central message.” What does that mean, do you suppose? Is the Holy Father suggesting we delve into the commentaries first? I’m sometimes suspicious of that, as it can relieve the believer of exploring to uncover God’s own message. For the homilist, I suspect this is not a common or expected practice. Any homilist should have a well-defined sense of self–enough to be able to explore where the Holy Spirit is leading one’s mind and heart in the encounter with the Word.
Included in the “central message” would also be the essence of the genre of the text, the larger context of the Lectionary passage, and the larger intent of the sacred author. But no doubt: looking at the Bible passage to be preached is the essential starting point. And probably a good final spot, just to ensure the spiritual pilgrimage hasn’t gone astray.