EG 158: Order, Logic, And Focus

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis continues to discuss resources for preaching in sections 156-159 of Evangelii Gaudium. This will be the second-last of EG posts on the homily. Pope Paul reminds us that people have high expectations from liturgical preaching. Good thing they still care, eh?

158. Paul VI said that “the faithful… expect much from preaching, and will greatly benefit from it, provided that it is simple, clear, direct, well-adapted”.[Evangelii Nuntiandi 43] Simplicity has to do with the language we use. It must be one that people understand, lest we risk speaking to a void. Preachers often use words learned during their studies and in specialized settings which are not part of the ordinary language of their hearers. These are words that are suitable in theology or catechesis, but whose meaning is incomprehensible to the majority of Christians.

There is a danger of being too self-centered. The “greatest risk,” in Pope Francis’ judgment:

The greatest risk for a preacher is that he becomes so accustomed to his own language that he thinks that everyone else naturally understands and uses it. If we wish to adapt to people’s language and to reach them with God’s word, we need to share in their lives and pay loving attention to them. Simplicity and clarity are two different things. Our language may be simple but our preaching not very clear. It can end up being incomprehensible because it is disorganized, lacks logical progression or tries to deal with too many things at one time. We need to ensure, then, that the homily has thematic unity, clear order and correlation between sentences, so that people can follow the preacher easily and grasp his line of argument.

Much is made of vocabulary, and also what people “want” to hear, the suggestion they would prefer to be coddled. These points avoid the core needs of a good homily:

  • organized
  • logical progression
  • single-minded

One of the problems I hear in homilies is that they attempt to address too much stuff. What do you hear?

About catholicsensibility

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