Summary: Please pray for us, to get to the point, stay positive, find a practical application of the Gospel and know when to shut up and get on with the real celebration.
Thursday of 14th Week in Course
A few years ago I discovered a lot of he humor in the OT. Most of us missed that growing up because we were being taught how to be accepted in society, and some forms of humor were considered too gross to even recognize, let alone emulate. Here we have one we might rate PG-14. The people have sinned and are suffering great punishment because of that sin–probably idolatry. Now the most productive discomfort is that suffered by a woman in labor–all that work gives the world a new human being of infinite dignity. But the self-inflicted pain of Israel, rather than giving birth to some wondrous new society. . .well, it produced nothing but gas. Now that’s funny and tragic all at once.
By contrast, Jesus tells us that his work–sharing the good news of forgiveness and redemption–is easy precisely because of His gentleness and meekness. He does not recruit us to His ministry in order to gain power and prestige, worldly wealth and fame. All Jesus Christ wants to do is to serve humanity, to give us eternal life and happiness. And we achieve that goal by being immersed, baptized, into His reality, and imitating His self-sacrifice and self-giving. That is the true homily we preach every day from the moment we awake to a psalm of praise to the time we fall asleep with a prayer of hope and faith, whether we say a word to others or not.
The Pope is continuing his discourse on writing and delivering homilies to communicate the joy of the Gospel: ‘It is worthy remembering that “the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated”. The homily has special importance due to its eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion. The homily takes up once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people. The preacher must know the heart of his community, in order to realize where its desire for God is alive and ardent, as well as where that dialogue, once loving, has been thwarted and is now barren.
‘The homily cannot be a form of entertainment like those presented by the media, yet it does need to give life and meaning to the celebration. It is a distinctive genre, since it is preaching situated within the framework of a liturgical celebration; hence it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture. A preacher may be able to hold the attention of his listeners for a whole hour, but in this case his words become more important than the celebration of faith. If the homily goes on too long, it will affect two characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and its rhythm. When preaching takes place within the context of the liturgy, it is part of the offering made to the Father and a mediation of the grace which Christ pours out during the celebration. This context demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention.’
I share these words of the Pope not to turn you into homily critics, but to give you another reason to pray for us preachers. The Holy Father is absolutely correct here. Most ineffective preaching I have heard is just too long. I recall one I heard locally just a few weeks ago that was quite good, but the preacher followed up this brief exposition with another. . .and another. . .and another until he had given about seven fine micro-homilies that made up one irritating macro-homily. The only take-away I got that morning was a determination never to do that to my congregation. So please pray for us, to get to the point, stay positive, find a practical application of the Gospel and know when to shut up and get on with the real celebration.