Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 6, 2004
Bad homily? Let the priest know
Whether some people agree or not, a preacher's homily during Mass plays a crucial role in the celebration. However, the homily shouldn't be the only reason why people come and celebrate the Mass.
Whether we are willing to admit it, for some the homily is the major reason for attending Mass.
This is not to say a homily is more important than the Holy Eucharist. It is not. But the homily should lead people to be more inspired to celebrate and receive the Holy Eucharist.
We come and celebrate the Mass because of the breaking of the bread during which God makes presents the Last Supper of the Lord. Jesus was clear. He said, "Do this in memory of me."
As the liturgy of the Mass metamorphosed to its present form, the place of the table of the Word of God became important. We believe that Jesus is fully present in the Word that is proclaimed from the Sacred Scriptures. But the Word needs to be broken up and shared like the Bread of Life.
During the Mass, breaking up the Word of God happens when the preacher delivers the homily. Sometimes the homily nourishes the spirit of the people; at other times it doesn't. When it fails to nourish, it can potentially cause people not to come back and celebrate Mass.
Times have changed. Previously, a poor homily was seldom talked about and discussed by the congregation.
Now, the people listen to the homilies with critical and analytical minds. Some carry what they heard from a homily to the coffee table and share it with their family and friends. They carry it with them because it inspired them and they want to share it with others. At other times, it confused them and they seek help from others to clarify their confusion.
If the homily speaks to your heart - whether it gives you a sense of peace or invites you to assess what you believe in and how you live your life - it is a good homily.
It spoke to your heart when you stepped out of the church inspired and nourished; when it has a long-lasting message; when you are moved to extend a helping hand to your neighbours; and when you desire to be converted deeply and continually.
A good homily can even make you feel uncomfortable. And that's okay. The word of God ought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
When a homily is bad, we just know it is bad, just like we know that we had a bad visit with our dentist or physician.
It is bad when we know that the word of God is not broken for us.
And when it is bad, we feel like leaving the pew and coming back when it's time for the liturgy of the Eucharist. But as good Catholics we try not to do that.
One thing about bad homilies is that we allow them to be habitually delivered when, in fact, we can politely let the preacher know.
It does not mean that we have to complain about every homily. But we have to be honest when we have been asked, "How's my homily?" Trust me, it is an act of charity to be truthful but not hurtful. And don't forget to thank the homilists as well - they worked hard to prepare one.
Preaching is a ministry that can no longer be taken for granted.
People are harder to convince. They want to hear an expression of faith that makes sense and one that is founded on faith seeking understanding.
Letter to the Editor - 09/13/04
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