Some notes on preaching
Already for a number of years, I have been preaching and also being preached to. I thought of sharing my experiences for whatever they are worth.
First of all, preaching is definitely not just a performance, although we priests should try our best to perform as best as we can as preachers. The people appreciate good performers. And we just have to try our best to meet their expectations in that department.
Just the same, preaching is not merely a performance. The clarification is important because preaching involves much more than just being a good performer or a good actor. The preacher has to be a faithful minister of Christ.
As such, he is duty-bound, after he has been sacramentally conformed to Christ as priest, head of the Church, to assume the very mind and heart of Christ, the thoughts, desires and words of Christ as head of the Church.
He can only talk about God, whatever the situation or circumstances may be. He has to present the living Christ, not a theoretical Christ, and much less, his own self. The people should take home a vivid, and even stirring memory of Christ, not someone or something else.
This, of course, is a lifelong affair that involves the priest's total commitment at praying, meditating and assimilating the words of Christ, making them their very own and relating them to the current issues, the temper of the times, the cultures of the people, etc.
In other words, the priest is primarily required to live a unity of life that is patterned closely to that of Christ as priest, head of the Church. This is a tremendous, if not an overwhelming task, but it can and should be done, since all the means are already made available in abundance. It would just need the priest's free cooperation and correspondence.
The priest should prepare his preaching spiritually, by praying and offering sacrifices. Then he has to study and start composing his thoughts and words, always keeping in mind both Christ and the people he has to preach to. Of course, he has to give due consideration to the different circumstances place, time, issues, etc.
There are just a few points that I would like to highlight. In preaching, we priests should present Christ in a positive and encouraging manner, helping people how to relate to him, and not to alienate them by threatening, scolding or lecturing to them. We need to use the appropriate tone and words, avoiding a condescending tone and being ever sensitive to the sensitivities of the people.
And while we priests may propose, suggest or even recommend a particular way of doing things, we should not give the impression that it is the only way when many other legitimate ways can also be resorted to.
We should always respect the freedom of the people, always treating them the way they are but also keeping in mind the way they ought to be. This can only take place when we exert the effort to imitate Christ who is the very personification of the proper blend between the exclusivity of truth and the inclusivity of charity.
We priests should not just remain in the level of saying do this or do that. We have to give people many ideas of how to do this or do that. And more than giving ideas, we should be the first to give living testimony of what we preach, to such an extent that people can say we practice what we preach.*
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