we must not speak more about law than grace

An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 15

First, it needs to be said that in preaching the Gospel a fitting sense of proportion has to be maintained. (Evangelii Gaudium, 38)

Pope Francis is giving a simple piece of practical advice for preachers but it is applicable to all our evangelizing efforts. He uses a concrete example. If you give ten homilies on temperance, but only mention charity or justice two or three times, then there is an imbalance that must be righted. We cannot “speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word.”

I knew a pastor once who never missed an opportunity to preach about Sunday Mass obligation. Sadly, he was preaching to half empty pews. It was not only annoying for those of us who were there, we were getting fed up with the guilt trips that he laid on us. It was our fault if our family members and friends were missing and what were we going to do about it?

Threats of mortal sin and hell fire no longer draw good men and women through the doors of the church. Finger wagging tirades about doctrinal, liturgical and moral indiscretions will probably turn away many who are already there.

Yes, sin exists and Pope Francis never shies away from preaching about it. But, and here is where the proportion is balanced, it must always be preached with a good dose of God’s loving mercy. First and foremost, we must come to know and love God on a personal level. We must hear and embrace the gospel message of Jesus; a message of love, justice and peace. We must be on fire with that message in order to truly live it in the world.

Christian morality, according to Francis, is “not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”