We have all been held captive on a Sunday morning with a ho-hum homily. Blessed is the parish that has a gifted, inspiring homilist. And God bless those who get a snoozer week after week. It’s a test of faith and perseverance to remain focused, listen patiently, and stay awake!
Homiletics or preaching is a gift that isn’t automatically bestowed upon a priest at ordination. Training is given in seminaries, but as with any course of study some are better students than others. Gifted homilists are able to delve deeply into the scripture readings and dig out a relevant and timely message. They have the gift of presenting the message clearly so that it is easily understood and remembered. They have the gift of words that inspire the listener. They know that having the answers isn’t always required, so will challenge and nudge us to further pondering.
For me, one sign of a good homily is the conversation that it sparks while cooking the Sunday brunch after mass. Even if you don’t agree with what was said, it gets you talking. A ho-hum homily is a non-event that is forgotten by the time you reach the parking lot.
A good homily takes a lot of work and a lot of prayer. Sneaking the latest issue of Homiletic Review up to the pulpit and reading from it doesn’t count! If you are graced with a good homily this Sunday, be sure to affirm your pastor. It’s a tough job, and a few kind words of support can go a long way.