I return to the letters of St. Eugene de Mazenod from 1836. Eugene is still Eugene and so here he writes to Fr. Courtès of how he wishes his sons, the members of the congregation to prepare for preaching sermons.
“It is absolutely essential that he prepare too some solid instructions on the great truths of religion. It is really pitiful to see missionaries who do not set about the task of preaching. If he needs time to compose, let him take it; but it is my intention that he and the others get down to work whatever it costs them. It is not a counsel that I’m giving here, but a formal command which each person must submit to as a conscientious duty.” (563:VIII in Oblate Writings – Letter of April 14, 1836)
Without preparation how can any of us preach? Without preparation how can we teach or share about our own experiences? If I am to speak and give a reflection on the readings – of the day or the Sunday Eucharist I must spend time with it. After all I cannot get up and just share idle thoughts – that would be an insult to those who hear me and an injustice to the Word of God.
I need to spend some time with the readings, spend some time listening to the Spirit. I will consult what scripture scholars have to say. Only then will I begin and put pen to the paper. It takes time to prepare. It takes time and prayer before I am comfortable with it. And even then there is always a small prayer to God that the words be His, that I convey what He would have me speak. Even then I cannot say that I am entirely comfortable with it, only that I must then share it give thanks to God for what He would have me say. I have noticed that when I do speak it seems always to focus on the tenderness of God’s mercy, God’s love and of the invitation for each of us to become aware of that in our lives.
I look at life and realise that what I am writing, what Eugene is speaking about does not only apply to the preaching of sermons. It is a part of our everyday lives whether we be preaching or teaching, giving a conference, a retreat or a workshop, organizing a library or setting up for a gathering or an event. We prepare so that we can give our very best to those who will be receiving. Anything less would not be acceptable.