For whose sinfulness is the preacher’s word withheld?

I have often said that the Gospel is no longer preached in the Church, and it’s not preached because it’s not believed. Clearly there are some who believe, and who also preach the Gospel, but the overwhelming trend is to subordinate the Gospel to the demands of secular culture. Thus you almost never hear chastity preached from the pulpit, nor the sinfulness of homosexual acts, nor the danger of receiving communion in the state of mortal sin. This would seem to indicate an indifference to the eternal welfare of the flock; except that it might also indicate a lack of belief in hell. The latter to me seems more likely.

But is the failure of preaching in the Church entirely the fault of our shepherds? I came across the following which puts the matter in another light:

Look about you and see how full the world is of priests, yet in God’s harvest a labourer is rarely to be found; for although we have accepted the priestly office, we do not fulfill its demands.

Beloved brothers … [p]ray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge.

For frequently the preacher’s tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness; while on the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people’s sins, the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly.

With reference to the wickedness of the preacher, the psalmist says: “But God asks the sinner: Why do you recite my commandments?” And with reference to the latter, the Lord tells Ezekiel: “I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be dumb and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house.” He clearly means this: the word of preaching will be taken away from you because as long as this people irritates me by their deeds, they are unworthy to hear the exhortation of truth. It is not easy to know for whose sinfulness the preacher’s word is withheld, but it is indisputable that the shepherd’s silence while often injurious to himself will always harm his flock.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, Office of Readings for Saturday of Week 27 in Ordinary Time.

It has always seemed natural to me to blame the plight of the Church on the shepherds, since they’re in charge and will be held responsible (Jer. 23:1). But sometimes the flock is bad too. This is not a fully formed idea for me, but something to think about.



One thought on “For whose sinfulness is the preacher’s word withheld?

  1. I think you are on to something. I am no shepherd, except perhaps of my own family, but when confronted with evil and ignorance in the world I find myself unable to speak… a problem I never had before I converted and learned the Truth of God’s Word. I pray for God to help me speak, to let me speak, but I think it is a time for God’s wrath to be poured out on the peoples of Western civilization. We have (collectively, if not all personally) rejected him, and while we are each judged individually… God does punish collective sins of a people with collective punishment against that nation.

    Anyway. I look forward to your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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