Thursday, January 03, 2019 - Updated: 8:40 am
QUESTION: My question is about the content of the sermon at Mass. I wonder why priests concentrate so much on the Bible. The Bible seems to me like “old news.” I want to hear about what is happening today and how I should be facing the problems of my time and my life, not someone else’s who lived thousands of years ago.
ANSWER: There are directives for what is to take place during the homily at Mass. The “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” describes the homily as “... an integral part of the liturgy and as a necessary source of nourishment of the Christian life” (article 41). It also states that the homily should “... develop some point of the readings or of another text from the ordinary or the Mass of the day.”
The instruction accompanying the Lectionary (book of readings) says: “Through the course of the liturgical year the homily sets forth the mysteries of faith and the standards of the Christian life on the basis of the sacred text” (article 24).
From these and other church documents, it is expected that the scriptural readings of the Mass are the normal basis for the homily. It is not the choice of the priest or deacon to speak about the Scriptures. It is his obligation. How that happens, however, is part of the art of preaching.
In general, the homilist may well cite a particular human experience from daily life and relate it to similar experiences of those in the scriptural readings for the day. The point then is how the men and women of the Bible addressed experiences that are common and how that might help us in our lives.
That process rests upon a belief that we are not that unique in our fundamental human experiences. The passing of centuries does not erase the basic human longing for peace, justice, meaning and purpose in life. Joy, sorrow, disappointment, betrayal, suffering and hope are not unique to our times, but have been a part of human life from the beginning.
Because the men and women in the Bible are among our ancestors in faith, we look to the Scriptures for insights. God’s work is not limited to our contemporary world. God was also alive in the world and lives of the men and women of the Bible. Their experience of life and of God is an important means of instruction for us.
Homilies are meant to fill out the essential Christian message. While the homily deals with essential elements of our faith, it should continue to challenge people to grow in faith-filled actions, and not simply repeat the elements of the creed. With the readings as a springboard, the homily should point to areas of daily life that can be impacted by the word of God. It should not ignore the issues of daily life, but neither should it be just another rendition of the evening news. It should be a prayerful reflection on God’s word as it relates to the events that shape our daily lives.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.