This should be our approach as we propose to everyone that we aim at the ideals presented to us by Christ, and now by the Church.
We should avoid just ramming them in down the throats of people without considering how ready they are in accepting and living them.
Let’s remember that these Christian ideals are eminently spiritual and supernatural in nature, although adapted, of course, to our human condition. As such, they usually are above our head, and cannot be attained simply using our natural powers. We need God’s grace to which we should try our best to correspond.
This is where a lot of effort, adjustments, and sacrifices are required. And this will obviously take time, even a lot of time. We have to learn, for example, how to materialize the spiritual, how to put in the proper context the supernatural messages of the gospel, how they can be made attractive and doable to the people, etc.
When we propose these Christian ideals, we should try our best not only to give the doctrine, the principles and some ideas. We should also come out with the appropriate plans, strategies, training and formation programs, etc., plus the fact that we have to accompany the people in pursuing these ideals as best that we could. We should avoid just preaching about these ideals.
Obviously, we should first live what we preach, since we cannot give what we do not have, nor be convincing and credible when we ourselves are not practicing what we preach. The inconsistency would be shown one way or another, sooner or later.
By living first what we preach, we would be richly supported by practical considerations that would be most helpful for the people to live what is being preached to them. At all costs, we should avoid preaching what we do not live ourselves or preaching in a way that we know people are not yet ready to live them. Thus, we should try our best to know the people very well so we would know how to adapt the preaching to them.
It’s true that we should preach in season and out of season as St. Paul said (cfr. 2 Tim 4, 2), but this does not excuse us from adapting our preaching to the concrete conditions of the people. Otherwise, our preaching would be regarded as overwhelming and would just turn people off rather than inspire them.
Let’s remember that Christ himself did this. That is why he used parables and other devices to impart important lessons to the people. Obviously, employing the right way to preach, to walk the talk and to accompany people in their pursuit for the Christian ideals would be a very dynamic thing, a life-long process that will never end. We should just be ready for this condition, humble enough to accept its tentative character and to make the necessary adjustments and adaptations along the way.
In this regard, it would be helpful that we assume a sporting but creative spirit in this task. We have to expect some mistakes that we can commit, some failures, etc., but these should offer us precious lessons rather than be simply discouraged.
If we persist in this, time will come when it is kind of instinctive in us to know how to preach and guide people gradually as on an inclined plane.*