A topic of which there is no shortage of opinions — preaching — will be getting more attention next month at the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore.
From the USCCB:
The U.S. bishops will vote on a formal document on preaching at their annual fall meeting, November 12-15, in Baltimore.
The document, “Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily,” will be presented by the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), chaired by Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. It is intended in particular for priests and deacons and those who educate seminarians.
The document cites numerous examples from the Scriptures, including the preaching of Jesus Himself, and encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people’s daily lives. It said, for example, that “the homilist of today must realize that he is addressing a congregation that is more culturally diverse than previously, one that is profoundly affected by the surrounding secular context, and, in many instances, inadequately catechized.”
The document also emphasizes that “the homily is integral to the liturgical act of the Eucharist, and the language and spirit of the homily should fit the context.”
The homily needs to touch people’s lives and enhance their relationship with Jesus, it said.
“The ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel is to lead people into a loving and intimate relationship with the Lord, a relationship that forms the character of their persons and guides them in living out their faith.” It added that “by highlighting his humanity, his poverty, his compassion, his forthrightness, and his suffering and Death, an effective homily would show the faithful just how much the Son of God loved them in taking our human flesh upon himself.”
“The homily is intended to establish a ‘dialogue’ between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer,” the document said. It added that “apt stories that illustrate human experience or the realities of contemporary culture help enliven the homily and open avenues for understanding the meaning of the biblical text….”
The document listed qualities needed by the preacher, and said “the homilist should strive to live a life of holiness” and be well-versed in Scripture.
“His Bible should be near at hand” so he is “carrying it with him when he travels or perhaps staying linked to it by computer or other mobile technology.” The goal is “to see the world through biblical eyes” so he can be “adept at noticing the analogies between the Bible and ordinary experience.”
Homilists should be in touch with the contemporary culture, the document said.
“Preachers should be aware, in an appropriate way, of what their people are watching on television, what kind of music they are listening to, which websites they find appealing, and which films they find compelling. References to the more popular cultural expressions—which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs—can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith.”
The document offers some cautions.
It warned against using the homily “for theological speculation,” for example, and said “it would be inappropriate for the homilist to impose on the congregation his own partisan views about current issues.”
It sees Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals as times when the assembly includes Catholics who attend Mass only occasionally, and said “This is obviously not the time to chide such Catholics for their absence.” Instead, it said, this is a time “to invite back those who have lost contact with the Church.”