October 27: The telephone game

We all know how it works: The game begins at one end of a line, with the first player whispering something to the next. The message gets passed, from player to player, until the last one in the line reveals the message. Most times, the final version differs greatly, sometimes hilariously, from the original.

This happens, even or perhaps especially when it comes to the preaching of the Christian Good News.

“In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects,” Pope Francis writes. “In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning.”

There is a kind of miscommunication that has a particular bearing on the missionary. “The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness.”

“Secondary aspects.” That sounds like the telephone game, all right.

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