We’ve all heard jokes about the length of the Sunday homily.
After Mass, the priest asked the parishioner, “Why did you leave during my homily and then return near the end?” The parishioner replied, “I didn’t need a haircut when you started.”
Most of us have heard complaints about the quality of the homily probably as long as we have been attending Mass. Poor homilies are one of the main reasons given why people stop attending Mass. Sure, not every homily you hear is a home run. But, it’s equally true that not every homily you hear is a total clunker either.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 109) says that “In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.”
Do you want to hear better homilies? Then become a more active participant at Mass and within your parish family:
Prepare — Read the Scripture readings prior to Mass and pray over them. What is God saying to you specifically? Discuss with your family and friends. What is Scripture saying to them? Talk about the Scripture readings on the ride to church. Meditating and contemplating on the day’s Scripture readings beforehand will help make the homily you hear more relevant.
Active listening/body language — When the priest or deacon is giving the homily, instead of yawning with your arms folded, make eye contact with him, nod your head in agreement, smile and laugh when appropriate. Responding positively actually encourages the homilist. This is why entertainers love “live” performances — the bond that is formed with audience. This applies to your parish priests and deacons as well.
Pray — Pray for your homilist. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide him and to put the right words in his mouth. Pray St. John Vianney’s Prayer for Priests to “be shining examples of holiness, tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God.”
Feedback — Feedback given the right way creates positive change. It is not meant to be harsh or judgmental. Rather than saying, “Nice homily padre,” tell the priest or deacon why the homily was effective or not effective. Try to be specific and concise. Good feedback helps everyone grow — priests, deacons and the parishioners.
Build relationship — Get to know your parish priests and deacons better. As you grow in friendship, you have a better understanding of each other and it makes it easier to provide positive feedback.
Do you want to hear better homilies? Then we have to do our part: prepare, pray and participate.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected]