The Challenging Nature of Preaching
Aug 6, 2018
Preaching was the topic or theme of our Priests’ Convocation earlier this summer. Let’s look at what makes the opportunity to preach challenging. First off, people of all ages come to weekend Masses. Hopefully, the one who preaches will have a message that hits home for all who attend a given Mass. Effective preaching addresses experiences that are common to persons of all ages.
To significantly influence the ones to whom he preaches, a homilist needs to come across with the perception that he is in the same boat with the persons with whom he shares the Gospel.
The time framework within which a homilist can be effective also makes the work of preaching challenging. Ideally, to be effective in our culture, a homily should not be longer than 10 to 12 minutes. I must admit that this is challenging for me.
How does one who preaches well work to construct an effective message? First and foremost, prayer is essential. Conversation with the Lord influences the spirit in which a message is crafted. Then, homilies for Masses are or should be based upon the Scripture Readings for a given celebration of Mass. During each of the three years in the Cycle of Readings for the weekend Masses, the Readings present a holistic expression of the counsel of God. Lectionary selections offer that which is joyful, comforting, hopeful and challenging. It’s not easy nor is it comfortable to preach on the directive of our Lord to take up our crosses and to follow Him. And yet, in order to be faithful to what the Lord calls upon those who preach to do, it is necessary to present that about Gospel living which is challenging.
Effective preaching leads to the celebration of the Eucharist. A given homily points to a specific aspect of living for which the Eucharist empowers us. If homilies are to be faithful to the Gospel, all that we are asked to do comes as a loving response to God’s all-embracing, unconditional love for us.
The scope of effective preaching is well-expressed in Deuteronomy 6:5. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The goal of effective preaching is to touch and to influence all facets of our lives including the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives.
One sign suggesting that preaching is being effective is when people hunger to hear more. Hopefully, this will lead to the following: 1) Persons will want to come to Mass on a regular, frequent basis. 2) Listeners will be motivated to explore the implications of the Faith that we celebrate at Mass for daily living. This is the work of catechesis. When preaching is effective, people will want to learn how our Faith would influence our attitudes, words and actions. Good preaching will lead us, both as individuals and as members of various groups to want to relate the Gospel to all facets of living in this world.
As one who has been called to preach the Word of God, I hope that those with whom I share the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ will continue to rejoice in knowing that they are loved unconditionally by the Lord, will witness of this to others and extend this witness by embracing lives of loving service to others in the Lord’s Name.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor