5. In this unity born of listening, pastors are primarily responsible for explaining sacred Scripture and helping everyone to understand it. Since it is the people’s book, those called to be ministers of the word must feel an urgent need to make it accessible to their community.
Ministers of the Word consist of lectors as well as preachers. They inspire listeners, and from there, the optimal response is perception and integration into one’s life. As Pope Francis writes, pastors have the responsibility. That responsibility includes searching for, recruiting, and equipping others to share in the direct ministry–unless the community is small enough that one person can handle it all.
There is a significance to the ministry of the Word at Mass:
The homily, in particular, has a distinctive function, for it possesses “a quasi-sacramental character” (Evangelii Gaudium, 142). Helping people to enter more deeply into the word of God through simple and suitable language will allow priests themselves to discover the “beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practice of the good” (ibid.). This is a pastoral opportunity that should not be wasted!
The church is more vital than the classroom, I think. Not everyone sees themselves as a student or disciple. More people, but still not all, see themselves as believing worshipers.
Pope Francis offers advice on the homily. This is not new territory for him:
For many of our faithful, in fact, this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s word and to see it applied to their daily lives. Consequently, sufficient time must be devoted to the preparation of the homily. A commentary on the sacred readings cannot be improvised. Those of us who are preachers should not give long, pedantic homilies or wander off into unrelated topics. When we take time to pray and meditate on the sacred text, we can speak from the heart and thus reach the hearts of those who hear us, conveying what is essential and capable of bearing fruit. May we never tire of devoting time and prayer to Scripture, so that it may be received “not as a human word but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13).
One paragraph boils down the essence of the homily.
- It should apply to the lived experience of the listeners
- It requires preparation, not improvisation
- It should be brief and focused
- It is supported by the preacher’s prayer life
- Prayer leads to personal authenticity
- Cor ad cor loquitor … heart speaks to heart
A word of advice for faith formation directors who are responsible for catechists:
Catechists, too, in their ministry of helping people to grow in their faith, ought to feel an urgent need for personal renewal through familiarity with, and study of, the sacred Scriptures. This will help them foster in their hearers a true dialogue with the word of God.
The full document can be read here. The text reproduced from it is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.