Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homilies

Last week, after my angel homily, one of the Malachy parishioners came up to me and said, fairly disgusted "Are you ever going to preach on the Gospel? Gosh, I came here excited because of the Martha and Mary Gospel, and then I had to listen to you talk about angels?" I calmly explained to her that the priest has options when preaching, and can use any reading, but she wasn't really listening at that point. Ironically, yesterday a different parishioner, one who knew nothing about the previous lady's gripe, came up to me and said, "I want to thank you for not preaching on Martha and Mary. We hear about them all the time, and it was so refreshing to hear about angels because we don't hear about them very much." I could barely contain my smile.

I say this not to get people to feel sorry for me, but to raise a couple of important things with regard to homilies that I think it is good for people to keep in mind.

1) The 2nd Vatican Council says that priests should preach on A) one of the readings or B) some other phrase or text used at Mass. When I was growing up, I never heard anything from the Old Testament preached, and a lot of times wondered what was going on in the Old Testament. I had a professor in the seminary who encouraged us to preach on the psalm response from Mass on occasion because he said that was often ignored. I had another professor who encouraged us to preach on the Old Testament from time to time. The point to all of this is that, while the Gospel is the "high point" in terms of the reading, the priest can and should preach on other things besides the Gospel at times.

2) Along those lines, as the new translation of the Mass comes out, expect more homilies to be utilizing option B above as priests will be helping to introduce the changes in wording, and why those changes matter.

3) In the seminary, someone once told us, "Quit listening to the homily thinking about what you would be saying differently." That was excellent advice, because for Catholics it is easy during the homily to think "If I were preaching I would say..." and then when our little fantasy is over, we find we've missed the actual homily. The Church believes that, even if the message is horrible or unorthodox, that the message is still Christ speaking to the hearts of all the listeners a message they need to hear. If the message is bad or unorthodox, then perhaps that message is meant to inspire us to point that out the problem with a homily to the pastor and encourage him to become more faithful to the Church. Regardless, I think we do well to listen to the homily in the moment as opposed to running with it in our minds.

By the way, keep the feedback coming, and certainly constructive criticism is most appreciated.