EG 155: The Purpose of the Homily

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneI found this small section to be especially powerful and thought-provoking. Contained here is a four-point intent for the liturgical homily. From what I read of his daily Mass homilies, he practices what he preaches about preaching.

Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium continues on the theme of “an ear to the people.” We’re not talking, of course, about catering to the human selfishness of a spiritually ignorant people. But the real-life challenges of everyday life:

155. In this effort we may need but think of some ordinary human experience such as a joyful reunion, a moment of disappointment, the fear of being alone, compassion at the sufferings of others, uncertainty about the future, concern for a loved one, and so forth.

The Holy Father is talking about sensitivity to others:

But we need to develop a broad and profound sensitivity to what really affects other people’s lives.

Sounding like legal advice …

Let us also keep in mind that we should never respond to questions that nobody asks.

So much for Bob Hovda’s suggestion that homilists should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other:

Nor is it fitting to talk about the latest news in order to awaken people’s interest; we have television programmes for that. It is possible, however, to start with some fact or story so that God’s word can forcefully resound in its call to conversion, worship, commitment to fraternity and service, and so forth. Yet there will always be some who readily listen to a preacher’s commentaries on current affairs, while not letting themselves be challenged.

I think I see where Pope Francis is going on this. Even the oft-requested preaching topics: abortion, contraception, and other political things–these may well be avoidance opportunities for people who themselves might like to preach to others. Preaching then becomes not an opportunity to be challenged, but to see others squirm.

The pope’s summary is also apt. What is the purpose of the Word? So that people may experience conversion, that they might worship God, that they might “commit” to community, and that they might serve others. If challenging people where they are accomplishes that, then it is a means to an end.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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