Preaching is central to our full experience of the living presence and power of Christ in our worship. Although we do offer the Eucharist at certain times when silent reflection on the readings is judged to be sufficient, a homily will usually be preached at our regular community celebrations of the Eucharist. In preaching, Christ, who will be present to us in communion, comes first to those who are listening in “the word of God . . . living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and as the one who speaks words that are spirit and life.” The preached word is thus part of our experience of the daily bread of God’s nourishment.
Certain brothers will be given by God a special gift of the Spirit for preaching, but the same Spirit distributes among the brothers the ability to share their experience of God and express their faith in the gospel through homilies offered at the Eucharist. Some brothers may participate in the preaching life only as listeners, but the formation that everyone coming into the community receives should enable most of us to preach. This exchange of the living word among us is a powerful expression of the communion of the Holy Spirit. In preaching we share with one another the fruits of our prayer, experience and study, and build up the common life. We learn to value one another’s uniqueness as we come to appreciate our varied styles and distinctive approaches. We experience the mysterious action of the Spirit, who sometimes touches our hearts with particular power when the words of the preacher are not in themselves especially eloquent or strong.
We shall need to renew our attentiveness to the preached word often. Openness will only be sustained if we ask for it, humbly confessing to God our tendency to be distracted. Courtesy and mutual respect encourage us to show through our posture and responsive attitude that we are listening to the preacher and not turning away from his offering. We need to let go of prejudices that deter us from being alert and ready for the gift that a brother might bring to us in his homily. In our prayer we are called to savor and meditate on the new gifts that have come to us through listening to one another’s preaching so that they can be truly absorbed.
We will grow in our abilities as ministers of the word if we give and receive thoughtful responses to one another’s preaching. Expressions of appreciation and thoughtful and sensitive criticism belong to that “speaking the truth in love” which builds up the body and makes our gifts more fruitful. At regular gatherings of the community time will be set aside for corporate reflection on our preaching.
Although we preach to one another as members of a community we must include the guests who worship with us; they are important members of our liturgical assembly. The word we preach is meant to address their claims and needs as well as our own, and the presence of different people from many walks of life is an incentive to keep before us wide spiritual horizons and challenging questions. People are hungry for good news that life is full of meaning in union with God. As we take turns to preach in the liturgy we remember our primary calling to be witnesses and messengers of that good news.