B16's Lenten Q&A

He's been at it again, Our Papa: taking questions from local clergy. His answer to the first question --about how to make the Gospel "real" is a delight, not just for what he says but because I can imagine he drew many laughs along the way. He starts by saying he's not an oracle --that he expects to learn from the experiences of the priests on the front lines, not just proclaim from on high. To this he adds a little digression about how good it was to hear from the Nigerian bishops, who just made their ad limina visit:
it’s a Church like we see in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s a Church where the joy of having found Christ is fresh, of having found the Messiah of God. It’s a Church that lives and grows every day. The people are joyous at having found Christ. They have vocations and thus they can give priests fidei donum in various parts of the world. To see that there’s not only a tired Church, as one frequently finds in Europe, but a young Church, full of the joy of the Holy Spirit, is certainly spiritually refreshing.
Good for the rest of us to hear, too. So then, getting to the point of the question, he admits that you can't preach forumlae, especially in a culture which no longer understands basic religious vocabulary. On the other hand, there's no use going the opposite direction:
we shouldn’t obscure the simplicity of the Word of God with interpretations excessively weighted down by attempts at ‘relevance.’ I recall a friend who, having listened to some preaching that offered lengthy anthropological reflections in order to finally arrive at the Gospel, said: ‘But these commentaries don’t interest me. I want to know what the Gospel says!’
Ha! I find in my old age that's more and more true for me, too-- and not just with respect to "documentary hypothesis" style explanations: with perfectly orthodox preaching, too. I basically can't bear to hear "preaching" as such any longer; I just want to hear directly about Jesus. Anyway, he continues...
It seems to me that rather than lengthy journeys of approach, it would be better – and this is what I did when I was still in my normal life – to say, ‘We don’t like this Gospel, we’re against what the Lord says!’ But what does that mean? If I say sincerely that at first blush I don’t agree, we have people’s attention: they can see that I am trying, as a man of today, to understand what the Lord is saying. In this way, we can enter into the Word in living fashion without lengthy circuits of gloss.
Which of course is exactly what we always see him doing: posing to himself the most difficult or most obvious question an unbeliever would ask --and then answering it.
We also have to remember, without false simplifications, that the twelve apostles were fishermen, artisans, of the province of Galilee, without particular preparation, without knowledge of the great Greek and Latin world. Instead they went into every part of the empire, even outside the empire, all the way to India, and proclaimed Christ with simplicity and with the strength of the simplicity of that which is true. It seems to me that this too is important: We must not lost the simplicity of the truth. God exists, and God is not a hypothetical being, but is close, he has spoken to us, he has spoken to me. Thus we can say simply how things are, though naturally one can and must explain and develop [this truth.] In doing so, however, we must not forget that we do not propose reflections, we’re not offering a philosophy, but we are proposing the simple proclamation of God who has acted – and who has acted also with me.
Did Benedict just tell Christians, "we are the change we've been waiting for"?
I would say that the first help is our personal experience. We don’t live on the moon. I am a man of this time if I live my faith sincerely in the culture of today, being one who lives amid the mass media of today, the conversations, the reality of the economy, all of this, and if I take seriously my experience and seek to personalize in myself all these realities. In this way, we’re on the path of making ourselves understood by others. St. Bernard of Clairvaux said in his book of considerations for his disciple, Pope Eugene: ‘Try to drink from your own well,’ that is, from your own humanity. If you are honest with yourself and begin to see in yourself what the faith is, with your human experience in this time, drinking from your own well, as St. Bernard says, then you’ll be able to say to others what needs to be said. In this sense, it seems important to me to be really attentive to the world of today, but also to be attentive to the Lord in myself: to be a man of this time, and at the same time a believer in Christ, who in himself transforms the eternal message into a contemporary message.
I love this last bit of encouragement for priests, too:
Who knows the world of the people of today better than the pastor? The rectory isn’t in the world, it’s in the parish. Here, people often come to the pastor – normally without masks, without pretense, but in situations of suffering, of illness, of death, of problems in the family. They come into the confessional, without masks but as they really are. No other profession, it seems to me, gives this possibility of knowing the human person in his or her humanity, and not in terms of his or her role in society. In this sense, we can really study the human person in his depths, outside the roles people play, and learn ourselves what it is to be human – the human person always at the school of Christ. In this sense, I would say that it is absolutely important to learn what it is to be human, the human person of today, in ourselves and with the other, but also to do so always in attentive listening to the Lord and accepting into myself the seeds of the Word, so that they will be transformed in me and become communicable to others.
Off to read the rest and then, no doubt, more swooning.