Monday, October 08, 2018 - Updated: 2:05 pm
QUESTION: My question is about the homily 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 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 … of 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 directives we see that the expectation is that the Scripture readings of the Mass are the normal basis for the homily.
This is not to say, however, that the homily should be a Scripture class where every aspect and nuance of Bible study is to be expounded. The homily is not a lecture. It is supposed to be the result of a prayerful reflection on the readings of the day. One of my teachers told us students that the homily should rest upon the daily newspaper and Scripture. His meaning was that the challenging events of today really matter, but that we don’t have all the answers to them. That’s why the Bible matters, because it is God’s inspired word.
But the lives of the people in the Scriptures are not that different from our own. They faced hardship, hunger and fear. They worried about taxes and politics. They experienced betrayal, scandal, disappointment, hypocrisy and frustration. They also longed for hope and joy. And that is the point. When those aspects are part of our lives, what does the Scripture say to us? What did it say to the people of other times, and how can we apply that to our own lives?
In this way the homilist should refer to the experience of the men and women of the Bible. The homily then should speak of the wisdom of the Scriptures and how it spoke to ancient people and how it speaks to us today.
While the homily should be instructive, it should also be challenging. The homily should point to areas of daily life that are impacted by the word of God. It need not shy away from the real issues of life, but neither should it be just another rendition of the evening news.
In this way we rather humbly admit that our experience of life is not so unique. We, in fact, look to the Scriptures for an understanding of the experiences of others to understand our own. God’s activity 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.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.