success stories

Book: Preaching the Just Word
Author: Walter J. Burghardt, S.J.
Yale University Press, New Heaven, Connecticut, pp. 149

Excerpt from Introduction:

If our sermons are to revive the social gospel, if our homilies are to inspire as well as inform, our preachers must be set aflame. Not just provided with information, data, skills, strategies, important as these are. Even more importantly, a spirituality; in fact, a conversion that turns the preacher inside out, put "fire in the belly." Hence my project Preaching the Just Word, an effort to improve significantly the preaching of justice issues, primarily in the Catholic pulpits of the country, gradually on a broader, ecumenical level.

The method? Retreat/workshops, a week in length the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola in the context of social justice, led by teams of five or six, experts in biblical justice, the Church's tradition, effective preaching, profound spirituality, today's culture, and the liturgy. Not to solve complex issues in a sermon. Rather, to raise consciousness, stimulate awareness. Through persuasive homilies draw people of the parish together to mull over three questions: 1. What are the problem areas in our parish? 2. What resources do we command to address these issues? 3. How shall we turn theory to practice?

Excerpt from Book:

My first question: What precisely is this "radical dimension of the Bible" that gives rise to "scandal" in the Church? It centers on the word justice. . . What, then, was the justice God wanted to "roll down like water"? . . . .

Back in 1977 the biblical scholar John R. Donahue shaped a working definition with admirable succinctness:

In general terms the biblical idea of justice can be described as fidelity to the demands of a relationship. In contrast to modern individualism the Israelite is in a world where "to live" is to be united with others in a social context either by bonds of family or by convenant relationships. This web of relationships king with people, judge with complainants, family with tribe and kinfolk, the community with the resident alien and suffering in their midst and all with the covenant God constitutes the world in which life is played out.

Within this context, in what sense is God just? Because God always acts as God should, is invariably faithful to God's promise, for example, defending or vindicating God's people, punishing violations of the covenant, never forgetting a forgetful people. When are people just? When they are in right relationship to their God, to their sisters and brothers, to the whole of created reality. When God declared all of creation "very good", it was because simply everything was in right order, in proper relation: humanity (adam) to God, humans beings among themselves, humans and nonhuman reality toward one another. Justice has to do with the right ordering of all relationships, and so it is central to all human living. . . .

Three Social Issues on an Upsurge

Since completing the expanded version of my Beecher Lectures, I have been urged by an enthusiastic critic of those pages to allot some space to three crucial issues that have mushroomed in recent years but have been directly addressed in the preceding three chapters. . . . .

The issues are 1. Assisted suicide, 2. The role of women in the Catholic Church, with special emphasis on priestly ordination, and 3. gays and lesbians.

Table of Contents:

Chapter One: Preaching the Just Word in Scripture
Chapter Two: Preaching the Just Word in Tradition
Chapter Three: Preaching the Cry of the Poor
Chapter Four: Three Social Issues on an Upsurge