Vol. XVIII, No. 9
Preaching the Mystery of Faith
The purpose and spirit of the homily is to inspire and move those who hear it, to enable them to understand in heart and mind what the mysteries of our redemption mean for our lives and how they might call us to repentance and change (p. 35).
The Preacher as a Man of Holiness
To preach the Gospel authentically to the Christian community, the homilist should strive to live a life of holiness. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus strongly challenges those religious leaders who “preach but … do not practice,” those who “tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but … will not lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:3-4). To attempt to evangelize through words and example those who need to revitalize their faith, without awareness of one’s own need for ongoing spiritual renewal, would be in vain (p. 37).
The Preacher as a Man of Tradition
Along with a profound love of the Scriptures the homilist should also have knowledge of and religious adherence to the Church’s Sacred Tradition and its essential link to Scripture. From the perspective of Catholic faith, the one Word of God is expressed both in Scripture and in the Church’s Tradition. Blessed John Henry Newman said that the teaching of the Bible is like a seed, which has gradually unfolded across space and through time. Theology, spirituality, the liturgy, the lives of the saints, the formal teaching of the Church, great Catholic art, architecture, and poetry — all of these constitute the unfolding of the Word of God within our Catholic heritage. Tradition along with Scripture, therefore, is an important source from which preachers can draw inspiration (p. 40).
The Preacher as a Man of Communion
Effective preaching also entails a thoughtful and informed understanding of contemporary culture. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council made this point when they insisted that leaders within the Catholic Church must be deeply attuned, not only to Scripture and Tradition, but also to the “signs of the times,” signals coming from today’s world (p. 40).
It would be inappropriate for the homilist to impose on the congregation his own partisan views about current issues. Yet for preaching to be so abstract that it reveals no awareness of or concern for the great economic and social issues that are affecting people’s lives in a serious way would give the impression that the words of Scripture and the action of the Eucharist are without relevance for our everyday experience and our human hopes and dreams. Preachers should be aware … [that] 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 (p. 41). (Excerpts printed with permission)