Thursday, June 26, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium, Part Seven

135. Let us now look at preaching within the liturgy, which calls for serious consideration by pastors. I will dwell in particular, and even somewhat meticulously, on the homily and its preparation, since so many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry, and we cannot simply ignore them. The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case. The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth.

Well, it’s true. And a lot of the major reform movements in Church history, including the Counter-Reformation, had an emphasis on preaching. 

138. The homily cannot be a form of entertainment like those presented by the media, yet it does need to give life and meaning to the celebration. 

So we can dispense with the clown Mass, the Halloween Mass, the disco Mass, etc now!


It is a distinctive genre, since it is preaching situated within the framework of a liturgical celebration; hence it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture. A preacher may be able to hold the attention of his listeners for a whole hour, but in this case his words become more important than the celebration of faith. If the homily goes on too long, it will affect two characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and its rhythm. When preaching takes place within the context of the liturgy, it is part of the offering made to the Father and a mediation of the grace which Christ pours out during the celebration. This context demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention.

Offering the Mass ad orientem would fix a lot of this. But heck yes, anything that reminds the priest that the Mass isn’t about him and his ability to entertain the public is a welcome thing. 

142. Dialogue is much more than the communication of a truth. It arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words. This is an enrichment which does not consist in objects but in persons who share themselves in dialogue. A preaching which would be purely moralistic or doctrinaire, or one which turns into a lecture on biblical exegesis, detracts from this heart-to-heart communication which takes place in the homily and possesses a quasi-sacramental character: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). In the homily, truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness. Far from dealing with abstract truths or cold syllogisms, it communicates the beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practise of good. The memory of the faithful, like that of Mary, should overflow with the wondrous things done by God. Their hearts, growing in hope from the joyful and practical exercise of the love which they have received, will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.

I don’t pretend to understand a lot of the Pope’s comments on this subject. The homily isn’t a dialogue by definition. The homilist might get some feedback later that is valuable and the people might offer up their prayers and sacrifices in the Mass in response to what is preached, but that doesn’t seem to be what is envisioned here. Moreover, I simply have no idea as to what His Holiness is looking for in terms of content here. 

143. The challenge of an inculturated preaching consists in proclaiming a synthesis, not ideas or detached values. Where your synthesis is, there lies your heart. 

No clue.

In the course of the homily, the hearts of believers keep silence and allow God to speak. The Lord and his people speak to one another in a thousand ways directly, without intermediaries. But in the homily they want someone to serve as an instrument and to express their feelings in such a way that afterwards, each one may chose how he or she will continue the conversation. The word is essentially a mediator and requires not just the two who dialogue but also an intermediary who presents it for what it is, out of the conviction that “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5).

This mix of people keeping silent vs. people in dialogue is just confusing. 

What follows is a very lengthy section on the preparation and delivery of a good homily. Most of this is very practical and good stuff for a priest or deacon to consider (eg- recommending lectio divina). However, there are a couple of things to mention.

There was no suggestion about consulting the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. People today have very little concept of their Faith’s lineage and the great minds who helped nourish the Church’s survival throughout the centuries. 

On a separate issue, it is remarkable that Pope Francis will ask for brief, clear-speaking, simple homilies when it seems that neither he, nor his immediate predecessors, nor many other bishops, refuse to do so in the most basic of circumstances. We’ve discussed many times how the Pope’s words have been twisted lately. Some of that is inevitable. Taking care to minimize it should be a priority. Moreover, how many people are actually going to read documents that are 50,000 words long and full of convoluted language? I’m guessing not that many.

160. The Lord’s missionary mandate includes a call to growth in faith: “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). Hence it is clear that that the first proclamation also calls for ongoing formation and maturation. Evangelization aims at a process of growth which entails taking seriously each person and God’s plan for his or her life. All of us need to grow in Christ. Evangelization should stimulate a desire for this growth, so that each of us can say wholeheartedly: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

161. It would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation. It has to do with “observing” all that the Lord has shown us as the way of responding to his love. 

I don’t know if this is the case anymore. You have to give people a reason for why they should believe anything about God, including whether or not He loves them. Going further, you have to convince people why they should love other people at all, including and especially bad people. You should do this because God wants you to, but it’s tough to get that across when you don’t have proper doctrinal formation. 

To put it another way, even the LCWR might try to feed poor people in between events promoting abortion.

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