FIYH 63-64: Style

How should the homily be rendered? The bishops discuss the biblical roots and the stylistic possibilities:

[63] As regards the structure and style of the homily, we can take a lead from the use of the Greek word homileo in the New Testament. While the etymology of the word suggests communicating with a crowd, its actual use in the New Testament implies a more personal and conversational form of address than that used by the classical Greek orator. The word is employed in reference to the conversation the two disciples engaged in on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:14) and of the conversation Antonius Felix, Procurator of Judea, had with Paul when the latter was held prisoner in Caesarea (Acts 24:26). The New Testament usage suggests that a homily should sound more like a personal conversation, albeit a conversation on matters of utmost importance, than like a speech or a classroom lecture. What we should strive for is a style that is purposeful and personal, avoiding whatever sounds casual and chatty on the one extreme or impersonal and detached on the other.

Steering the middle course … okay.

[64] One of the ways we can move toward a more personal style of address in our homilies is by the way we structure them. Many homilies seem to fall into the same three-part pattern: “In today’s readings … This reminds us … Therefore let us … ” The very structure of such homilies gives the impression that the preacher’s principal purpose is to interpret scriptural texts rather than communi­cate with real people, and that he interprets these texts primarily to extract ethical demands to impose on a congregation. Such preachers may offer good advice, but they are rarely heard as preachers of good news, and this very fact tends to distance them from their listeners.

Remember this was written in 1981-82. Do you think this problem still exists? Or perhaps the bishops don’t have this quite right?

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

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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