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Posted November 27, 2012

Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily

Origins: Nov. 29, 2012, Vol. 42. No. 26

The U.S. bishops approved their first new document in 30 years on preaching during their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. Below are excerpts from that document.

"If a homilist conveys merely some example of proverbial wisdom or good manners or only some insight gained from his personal experience, he may have spoken accurately and even helpfully, but he has not yet spoken the Gospel, which ultimately must focus on the person of Jesus and the dynamic power of his mission to the world.""

"Virtually every homily preached during the liturgy should make some connection between the Scriptures just heard and the Eucharist about to be celebrated."

"The need for repentance does not mean that homilies should simply berate the people for their failures. Such an approach is not usually effective, for concentrating on our sinfulness, unaccompanied by the assurance of grace, usually produces either resentment or discouragement."

"The homily, which participates in the power of Christ's word, ought to inspire a sense of mission for those who hear it, making them doers and proclaimers of that same word in the world. A homily that does not lead to mission is therefore incomplete."

"The homilist may need to wrestle for a while with the challenging aspects of the biblical word, searching for ways it could connect to ordinary experience and how it might be proclaimed to the congregation the homilist serves."

"Then comes the process of drafting the homily in a thoughtful manner, finding the right words, moving examples and apt metaphors that will bring home to the listener the beauty and truth of the Scriptures --- and then reviewing and revising the text of the homily until it is ready."

"Good homilists often practice their homily ahead of time, hearing how it sounds out loud and seeking to preach it with passion and strength."

"Many Catholics, for a variety of reasons, seem either indifferent to or disaffected with the church and her teaching. We know that the general social context in the United States has a strong emphasis on the individual and individual choice, which often eclipses the sense of community or of the common good that is essential to Christian life."