In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis continues on the theme of that “initial proclamation.” He seems to reject the equating of a deeper catechesis with a deeper intellectual engagement. This makes sense to me, though I suppose I would be the one benefiting more than others in a universe in which a more profound rational understanding of the great mysteries of Christianity gave one a leg up, as it were, over others who had neither time, inclination, or abilities for advanced religious study. And indeed, when we equate greater holiness with a greater intellectual understanding, we indeed run a grave risk of falling into gnosticism.
So, how does one go deeper? Like a typical Jesuit, Pope Francis suggests we probe more deeply into the proclamation, not to exhaust its content intellectually:
165. We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart.
This second half of EG 165 gives us important insight as to the pope’s priorities, which seem wise and thoughtful to me:
The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today:
- it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part;
- it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom;
- it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical.
All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes which foster openness to the message:
- readiness for dialogue,
- a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.
My sense is that EG 165 is a key passage in this document, and gives church ministers much food for thought. Is our service to people marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness, and harmony? Do we embody the attitudes given in the second set of points?
As the weekend here wakes up, it occurs to me that these points seem applicable to parenting an adolescent. I’ll let you know how that works out, eh?