Friday, December 13, 2013

THE PROCLAIMATION OF THE GOSPEL

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(EG REVIEW PART 2)



Pope Francis featuredIn the previous section of his exhortation Pope Francis emphasized a need for a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ and for a transformation of the Church in light of a new missionary impulse.  In the next section, Pope Francis outlines some of the challenges of today’s world such as our “throw away” culture which treats human beings as “consumer goods to be used and then discarded” (EG 53). Economics and financial reform need to be open to an ethical approach which favors integral human fulfillment (EG 58).
Culture itself needs to be evangelized by confronting such challenges as; attacks on religious freedom, widespread indifference, relativism, the negative aspects of the media and entertainment industries which threaten traditional values, and the proliferation of new religious movements (EG 62-63).
He also notes that many of the baptized faithful “lack a sense of belonging to the Church” and that this may be due to “certain structures and the occasion­ally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems” or “a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization” (EG 63).
The process of secularization has reduced faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal through (EG 64). “Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will” (EG 66).
There are many temptations faced by pastoral workers in our current globalized culture (EG 76-77). We need to develop a new missionary spirituality which resists relativism and the exaggerations of personal freedom in our culture (EG 78-80). Pope Francis also notes the danger of negativity and pessimism, so that we do not appear to be “sourpusses” (EG 85).
The greater possibilities for communication in our modern world must turn into “greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity” (EG 87) allowing us to overcome suspicion (EG 88) and the isolation of unhealthy individualism (EG 89).
Pope Francis warns of two extremes of ‘spiritual worldliness’, one which is a purely subjective faith based on experience and the other a faith which ultimately trusts only in its own powers and feels superior to others because it observes certain rules or remains intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. (EG 93-94).
Pope Francis also discusses the challenges of lay people in the Church (EG 100-101).  The laity can be hindered by lack of formation or by limitations to their actions caused by “an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making” (EG 102).  Even when the lay faithful are involved in lay ministry they are often not involved in their essential role of a “greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors” in the midst of the world (EG 102).
The need to uphold the dignity of women and to create still broader opportunities for women in the Church is highlighted. At the same time Pope Francis still affirms the reservation of the priesthood to males, “as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist” (EG 103-104).
In the light of these challenges Pope Francis discusses the proclamation of the Gospel.  He warns that, “there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord” (EG 110). The task of proclaiming the gospel belongs to the entire people of God (EG 111). Every member of the Church is a missionary disciple.  The sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work in all the baptize impelling them to evangelize. All members of the People of God are agents of evangelization (EG 119-120).
The Gospel is frequently communicated in person to person conversation which forms a type of “informal preaching” (EG 127) “which is always respectful and gentle” and “the first step in personal dialogue” (EG 128).  Only then does the opportunity arise to humbly share the biblical message about Jesus’ offer of salvation and friendship (EG 128).  This message can take a variety of forms since the Holy Spirit enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms (EG 130). The duty of proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles (EG 132) and requires “an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments” and creative apologetics (EG 132).  While stressing the importance of the scholarly work of theologians he notes that theologians must always remember that “the Church and theology exist to evangelize, and not be content with a desk-bound theology” (EG 133).
The task of proclaiming the gospel is especially linked to the homily (EG 135).  Pope Francis urges pastors to renew their efforts at effective Biblical preaching (EG 136) which “is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people” (EG 137).
Pope Francis warns that, “the homily cannot be a form of entertainment like those presented by the media . . . it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture” and that “. . . preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist” (EG 138). The Church is a mother that speaks to her child (EG 139).
The homily should be a dialogue of heart to heart communication.  Pope Francis notes that an “inculturated preaching consists in proclaiming a synthesis, not ideas or detached values” (EG 143). Pope Francis gives pastors an extended set of advice on how to prepare and deliver a homily (EG 145-159). The preacher should prayerfully study the sacred text and prepare a message which will touch the heart of his hearers.
In this section of his exhortation Francis moves on to discuss evangelization and the deeper understanding of the kerygma or the initial preaching of the gospel. He points out that education and catechesis are at the service of the gospel (EG 165).
In the next extended section he discusses what he calls the importance of the “art of accompaniment” (EG 168-173), which “teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5)” (EG 168). This allows men and women on the basis of their experience of accompanying others to become “familiar with processes which call for prudence, understanding, patience and docility to the Spirit, so that they can protect the sheep from wolves who would scatter the flock” (EG 171).
The proclamation of the gospel should be centered on the Word of God. All evangelization is based on the word of God, “listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to” (EG 174).  The study of the sacred Scriptures is essential in all our efforts to pass on the faith. “Evangelization demands familiarity with God’s word, which calls for dioceses, parishes and Catholic associations to provide for a serious, ongoing study of the Bible” (EG 175).
© Scott McKellar 12/13/2013

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