FIYH 65-67: Style, Continued

After that long weekend break, let’s renew our examination of the US bishops’ document on the Sunday homily. Specifically, we’re looking at homiletic style: 

[65] Another way of structuring the homily, and one that is more in keeping with its function of enabling people to celebrate the liturgy with deepened faith, is to begin with a description of a contemporary human situation which is evoked by the scriptural texts, rather than with an interpretation or reiteration of the text. After the human situation has been addressed, the homilist can turn to the Scriptures to interpret this situation, showing how the God described therein is also present and active in our lives today. The conclusion of the homily can then be an invitation to praise this God who wills to be lovingly and powerfully present in the lives of his people.

Many preachers I know follow this more or less. Some are attached to humor in that human situation, but many vary the sort of life’s reiteration. Using the dialogue between that introduction and the Scriptures is a good model for the interaction of faith and action or  in the conversation between God and the created world. At minimum, it can jolt the believer out of a mode of petition prayer: looking for the commonalities between one’s experience and the Word and moving to deeper faith from there.

That said, the bishops state a caution and they encourage a certain creativity:

[66] The point of the preceding paragraph is not to substitute a new straight jacket for an old one. There is no one correct form for the homily. On occasion it may be a dramatic and engaging story, on another a well-reasoned exposition of a biblical theme showing its relevance to the contemporary situation, or the liturgical day, feast or season. It might also take the form of a dialogue between two preachers or involve the approved local use of visual or audio media. Ideally, the form and style will be determined by the form and style of the Scriptures from which it flows, by the character of the liturgy of which it is a part, and by the composition and expectations of the congregation to which it is addressed, and not exclusively by the preference of the preacher.

Creativity, at times, gets a bad rap these days, but these suggestions all presume a lively sense of liturgy, artistry, and imagination by the homilist.

[67] Whatever its form, the function of the Eucharistic homily is to enable people to lift up their hearts, to praise and thank the Lord for his presence in their lives. It will do this more effectively if the language it uses is specific, graphic, and imaginative. The more we can turn to the picture language of the poet and the storyteller, the more we will be able to preach in a way that invites people to respond from the heart as well as from the mind.  

Homilist as artist: a more engaging and all-encompassing notion than homilist as simple catechist or moral preacher.

Comments, especially with regard to the more creative ideas suggested in section 66?

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

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Fulfilled in Your Hearing, Liturgy, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

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