Pope Francis steals the thunder from the US Bishops a bit in this sub-section of Chapter Three that examines the homily in some detail. My pastor dove right into this section when the document came out late last year. The whole of Evangelii Gaudium is online.
135. Let us now look at preaching within the liturgy, which calls for serious consideration by pastors. I will dwell in particular, and even somewhat meticulously, on the homily and its preparation, since so many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry and we cannot simply ignore them. The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case. The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth.
First area for discussion: do you agree with Pope Francis’ assessment that the homily is a “touchstone” for a pastor’s effective ministry? Is it possible to be a poor homilist and a good pastor? Or are the two intimately connected?
Second region centers on the Holy Father’s hope that a homily be an occasion of intensity and happiness. Happiness: is this a proper adjective to describe the encounter with the Holy Spirit in light of the Scriptures? Has he just dropped in this word without thinking? Or is there some deeper meaning here? Clearly, Pope Francis would not seem to agree that the homily is a moment for castigation.
Last observation centers on the second half of that last sentence, and it raises two questions. Have the best homilies you’ve experienced included that quality of consolation? We hear consolation attributed often enough in prayer, as a working opposite desolation. Are Catholics prepared to see their encounter with the Word and the sacraments as that “constant source of renewal and growth”? It’s well enough to speak in principle of continuing conversion. Do we have the energy and the openness to be always prepared to allow God to renew and change us, to urge us to greater growth?