FIYH 71-73: Challenges for the Congregation

Authentic pastoral ministers know that being “pastoral” is not akin to spoonfeeding the laity and coddling their every experience. Conversion is a challenging and often troubling experience.

If the encounter with the Living Word uncovers the need for metanoia, then the homily can be a means of achieving change:

[71] It may very well be that what God is doing in the life of a congregation at some particular moment is asking them to change in a way that is demanding and disorienting. The homily can be one way of helping to bring about that change, and it can still lead to a response of praise and thanksgiving by showing that our former way of life, comfortable as it may have been, was a Way that led to death, while the new way, with all of its demands and difficulties, is a way that leads to life.

Ultimately, the bishops are speaking of the human entry into the Paschal Mystery: dying to self so as to enter into a deeper relationship with the Risen Christ.

Did you know there is preaching outside the homily? People may not turn out for it in numbers as great for Mass, but it is part of the ministry of the Word nonetheless:

[72] But even though the liturgical homily can incorporate instruction and exhortation, it will not be able to carry the whole weight of the Church’s preaching. There will still need to be special times and occasions for preaching that addresses human values in such a way as to dispose the hearers to be open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching intended to bring the hearers to an inner conversion of heart, and preaching intended to instruct the faithful in matters of doctrine or morality. These three kinds of preaching-sometimes referred to as pre-evangelization, evangelization, and catechesis-can be found today in evan­gelistic gatherings, the adult catechumenate, youth ministry programs, spiritual renewal programs, Bible study groups and many forms of religious education.

[73] The homily can complement all these forms of preaching by attending more specifically to what it is to accomplish. Such would be to show how and where the mystery of our faith, focused upon by that day’s Scripture readings, is occurring in our lives. This would bring the hearers to a more explicit and deepened faith, to an expression of that faith in the liturgical celebration and, following the celebration, in their life and work.

If the homily is truly to be a complementary aspect of a greater preaching effort, it will require more coordination and planning than we ordinarily see in parishes. Any parishes with hopeful signs or experiences on this front?

(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.
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1 Response to FIYH 71-73: Challenges for the Congregation

  1. Richard Ling 720-344-6158 says:

    As a priest who has preached and learned better how to preach for 50 years, I think this section offers the most important advice about the PURPOSE of a homily. It is NOT to focus on how God’s word CAN change people’s hearts and actions (which is mentioned too often in FIYH) but how that Word IS CHANGING them. Like the gospel proclaimed at a Mass, the homily should CONTINUE preaching “good news,” i.e., how the people at Mass are ACTUALLY living it. I have learned that highlighting how the people are “good news” people is far more effective in bringing about any changes needed than all the “lettuce” priests put into their homilies, i.e., “let us do this and “let us do that.” Instead of “lettuce” they need to put “sizzle” in homilies: the smell and souond of how people are actually being “gospel” people in their daily lives.

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