When Preaching Seems Pointless


What worries me about the requests for more sermons against sin is that such sermons only to serve to boost the self righteousness of the people in the pews.

If I weigh in against the evils of, let’s say, co-habitation before marriage, you can almost see the folks puff up their chests, nod and (if they were Baptists)  yell “Amen!” What all this really means is, “You tell ’em Father! We feel good when you preach against those other people who are sinners!”

Let’s say I preach about the need to be more generous to the Lord’s work. Invariably I’ll have some rich businessman come out the door and say, “Great homily Father!” I happen to know this guy is a millionaire and that he himself gives very little to the church, but he makes a big show of it when he does actually cough up and write a check for a hundred bucks. He hasn’t heard the homily on sacrificial giving at all because he thinks he IS a sacrificial giver and thinks everybody else are the tightwads.

If I preach about the need to attend Mass every Sunday and go to confession guess who tells me its a wonderful sermon? The ones who come to Mass every Sunday and make their confession regularly. They thought it was a wonderful sermon because it made them feel good because they’re one of the good guys and Father is getting down on all those other bad people.

So there are two problems here in which people can’t hear: the first is when the person genuinely can’t see his own faults and thinks the sermon doesn’t apply to him and the second is when he is doing the right thing, and the sermon is for those other bad people.

I sometimes feel like the dog who barks at the train. He doesn’t bark at the train because he thinks the train will stop. He barks because he’s a dog.

I know preaching isn’t pointless, and I should stop looking at what seems like a lack of results. Instead I should see all the many people who are listening and learning and wanting to grow in their faith.

And once in a  while I ought to get myself somewhere to hear a good sermon that will help me become a bit holier.