Last summer, persons from St. Mary Parish attended a conference in Detroit entitled AMAZING PARISH. Participants at the conference were invited to make the Sunday Experience of gathering for worship as effective as it can possibly be for all who come. A basic aspect of the Sunday Experience is that of the homily.
Those who preach, namely bishops, priests and deacons, are entrusted with an Apostolic task. The Apostles were called and commissioned to proclaim that which they had witnessed in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us look at matters about which those who preach need to be concerned. First and foremost is the matter of prayer. Those who would proclaim God’s Word need to be men who live in on-going dialogue with the Lord, particularly in regard to exercising the vital task of preaching.
The Church directs that preaching be based upon the Scripture Readings for the day. A basic reason for this is that we, as the Lord’s People, need to be exposed to the whole counsel of God. Those who preach need to direct our attention to facets of God’s Word that bring hope, comfort and challenge to all who are present. Apart from following Readings that have been designated for specific days or occasions, preachers could focus our attention only on limited aspects of the Christian message.
Those who preach need to be sensitive to the Season or occasion in which this function is to be exercised. The liturgical year offers direction for the proclamation of the Word. Specific occasions such as weddings, funerals, the celebration of the Sacraments hopefully will influence what is proclaimed in the homily.
Effective preaching takes into account aspects of the particular culture in which we live. A goal of apostolic preaching is to relate what is proclaimed to the particular setting in which we live.
Hopefully, the content of preaching has implications for our lives, both as individuals and as members of groups to which we belong, such as our family, the Church on the parish, diocesan and world levels, the setting in which we go to school and/or to work and in our lives as citizens.
Good preaching needs to offer a message that hits home to persons of all ages and stages on our journey in this world. Some preaching goes way over the heads of children and of youth.
To carry out its purpose, effective preaching needs to occur within a very limited time frame. Ideally, and I need to apply this to myself, a good homily should be from 10 to 12 minutes long. I need to work at this.
This leads me to mention the direction of preaching. A vital goal of preaching is to lead people to hunger for more, for a fuller experience of the Christian Way of living. A temptation of preaching is to focus too much on the specific implications of a certain facet of the Gospel message. Hopefully, preaching will lead listeners to want to explore the Faith in depth. This is the role of Christian formation, the goal of which is to relate the Faith that we celebrate to all aspects of our lives.
The role of those who preach is to sow the seed of God’s Word in a unique and distinctive manner. Let’s be patient listeners. It has been said that the devil can be at work in a sermon that brings tears to our eyes, and that the Lord can be powerfully at work in a sermon or homily that bores us to tears. For those who preach, let’s strive to relate to the Apostolic work of proclaiming God’s Word with humility. For those of us who listen, let’s strive to do this in a spirit of receptivity and patience.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor