In the third chapter of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he challenges all preachers and evangelizers that there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord and that those who evangelize should do so with joy, patience and the progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gives special instructions that cultural sensitivities should be taken into consideration, as all Christians are God’s people. “…[T]he faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture.”1 Pope Francis specifically invites all the faithful to participate in the new evangelization and to be open to evangelization themselves in the way of instruction. Popular piety, while once looked down upon, is hailed as how a culture infuses the faith into their lives. Thus the passing on of culture means the passing on of Christianity in those cultures. Preaching on a personal level is being asked for, but it must be tempered with understanding and love. Charisms are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and be oriented to the heart of the Gospel. Diversity should be fostered. The Holy Father praises those theologians who bring a balance to faith and reason through the sciences, but warns against what he calls “desk-bound theology.”
Pope Francis acknowledges the homily as an encounter with God--God reaching out to others through the preacher. Preaching within the confines of the liturgy is a dialog between God and the people of God. When the preacher knows the hearts of the people, the dialogue has weight. The Church as mother is given as an example of how the dialog should be done, a mother sees the gifts of her children, sees what God is attempting to bring about in the child’s life, and lovingly interacts with the child…but most of all a mother listens! Dialogue is not just a communication of truth, it is dependent on hearts speaking to one another. Preaching should be done with synthesis and passion, tempered with the enlightenment that can only come from the Holy Spirit.
“A preacher who does not prepare is not ‘spiritual’, he is dishonest and irresponsible with the gifts he has received.”2 In the reverence for truth it is necessary not only to put great care into understanding the Biblical text, but also time to pray and study what is being preached. Give time for the Holy Spirit to work; the Holy Father correctly claims that we give time to that which we love. The preacher should use the text as it was intended, and preach the actual meaning of the text. A text meant to console should not be used to correct errors. Beyond exegetical practices, the preacher should have an intimate knowledge of the Word, and be able to tap into the feeling behind the writing. The Holy Father points out in this section that the preacher should see what the reading brings out in the preacher. This allows for the passing on of what has been contemplated.3 Pope Francis goes on to direct preachers in the art of ‘Lectio Divina’. By the end of this section of the chapter, he sums up what makes a good homily, and the importance of being able to apply the message to the audience being preached to.
After initial evangelization and proclamation it is necessary to have continued formation in order to foster spiritual growth. The free gift of Baptism begins the growth and is a call to receive and live out the virtues, love, and responsibilities of God’s law. The Holy Father calls for the constant reminder that Christ died for all, is living with us, and gave his life to save us; it is from Christ where our strength and freedom come.4 He also calls for a mystagogical renewal. The passing on of the faith should be ‘new and beautiful,’ we are challenged to look for new phrases and sayings to make the Gospel attractive to others (while maintaining truth). Along with this is the necessary element of spiritual accompaniment, a calling issued to all Christians. “Someone good at such accompaniment does not give in to frustrations or fears. He or she invites others to let themselves be healed, to take up their mat, embrace the cross, leave all behind and go forth ever anew to proclaim the Gospel.”5 Pope Francis ends the chapter with the importance of studying the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the center of all evangelization. He puts forth that even the celebration of the Eucharist is made even more efficacious by the receiving of the word.