FIYH 4: Continuing With The Assembly

Letting the Carnival of Space have its headline for the day, let’s return to the earthbound theme of Sunday homiletics.

The US bishops start their document with the assembly, the listeners of the homily:

 [4] We believe that it is appropriate, indeed essential, to begin this treatment of the Sunday homily with the assembly rather than with the preacher or the homily, and this for two principal reasons. First of all we can point to the great emphasis which communication theorists place on an accurate understanding of the audience if communication is to be effective. Unless a preacher knows what a congregation needs, wants, or is able to hear, there is every possibility that the message offered in the homily will not meet the needs of the people who hear it. To say this is by no means to imply that preachers are only to preach what their congregations want to hear. Only when preachers know what their congregations want to hear will they be able to communicate what a congregation needs to hear. Homilists may indeed preach on what they understand to be the real issues, but if they are not in touch with what the people think are the real issues, they will very likely be misunderstood or not heard at all. What is communicated is not what is said, but it is what is heard, and what is heard is determined in large measure by what the hearer needs or wants to hear.

Do we want homilies to be effective? Is that the point? If so, content must be communicated. I can see that knowing what the community wants and needs to hear is vital. This last sentence is critical:

What is communicated is not what is said, but it is what is heard, and what is heard is determined in large measure by what the hearer needs or wants to hear.

Is there a true danger of the homilist caving in to what the people like? Sure. But that’s more a function of the preacher’s passivity than any particular homiletic approach.

Comments?
(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

 

 

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Fulfilled in Your Hearing, Liturgy, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

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