Pope Francis in Santa Marta: If the Word of God is not announced with prayer, it is a conference
He explained what characteristics are needed for those who proclaim the Gospel.
Courage prayer, and humility are the traits that distinguish the great “heralds” who have helped the Church to grow in the world.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis pointed out these three personality traits of an “envoy” who proclaims the Word of God during his homily at his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, as he lauded the example of Sts Cyril and Methodius, the patrons of Europe, who are honored today.
Francis also drew his inspiration from the day’s first Reading, with the figures of Paul and Barnabas; and of the Gospel from St Luke, with the seventy-two disciples sent out two-by-two by the Lord.
Recalling that Cyril and Methodius made Europe stronger, the Jesuit Pope noted that today, ‘sowers of the Word’ are needed.
The Holy Father explained that an ‘envoy’s’ first trait ought to be ‘frankness,’ which includes strength and courage.
“The Word of God cannot be given as a proposal – ‘well, if you like it…’ – or like good philosophical or moral idea – ‘well, you can live this way…’ No! It’s something else. It needs to be proposed with this frankness, with this force, so that the Word penetrates, as Paul says, ‘to the bone.’
The Word of God, Pope Francis stressed, must be proclaimed with this frankness, force and courage.
“The person who doesn’t have courage – spiritual courage, courage of heart, who is not enamored of Jesus! – No, you will say, yes, something interesting, something moral, something that will do you good, a good philanthropy, but this is not the Word of God. And this is incapable, this word, of forming the people of God. Only the Word of God proclaimed with this frankness, with this courage, is capable of forming the people of God.”
Need Hearts in Prayer
Recalling the Gospel of St Luke, Pope Francis mentioned other traits proper to a “herald” of the Word of God.
In addition to having the courage of missionaries, what is essential, the Pope stressed, is prayer.
“The Word of God should be proclaimed with prayer, also. Always. Without prayer, you could have a good conference, good instruction: good, good! But it is not the Word of God. The Word of God can only come from a heart in prayer.
“Prayer,” he noted, “so that the Lord might accompany this sowing of the Word, so that the Lord might water the seed so that the Word will sprout. The Word of God should be proclaimed with prayer: the prayer of the one who proclaims the Word of God.”
If Not Humble, Could End Badly
In the Gospel, the Pope also recalled, there is also a third interesting trait, namely that the Lord sends His disciples “like lambs amid wolves.”
“The true preacher is the one who knows he is weak, who knows that he cannot defend himself. ‘You are going out like a lamb among wolves’ – ‘But Lord, why would they eat me?’ – ‘You are going! This is the journey.’ And I think it was Chrysostom who has a very profound reflection, when he says: ‘But if you do not go like sheep, but you go like a wolf among wolves, the Lord, will not defend you: you’ll have to fend for yourself.’”
“When the preacher believes he is too intelligent, or when the one who is responsible for carrying forward the Word of God tries to be clever – ‘Ah, I can get along with these people’ – just so, it will end badly. Or you will bargain away the Word of God: to the powerful, to the proud,” Francis said.
To emphasize the great heralds’ humility, Francis recalled a story told to him by someone who bragged of preaching the Word of God well.
After a good sermon, the Holy Father said, “he went to the confessional, and found there a ‘great fish,’ a great sinner, and he wept,… he wanted to ask for forgiveness. And this confessor,” the Pope continued, “began to swell up with pride and curiosity” and asked the person which word had touched him so much “that he was moved to repent.”
“’It was when you said,’” the Pope said, “’let’s move on to another topic.’”
“I don’t know if it’s true,” Francis pointed out, but it certainly is true, he noted, that one will finish badly if one carries the Gospel “feeling sure of himself, and not like a lamb, whom the Lord will defend.”
Stressing we all ought to go forth courageously, prayerfully and humbly, as did Cyril and Methodius, Pope Francis concluded, praying that these saints help us “to proclaim the Word of God” according to these criteria.