Unofficial Final version of “Preaching the Mystery of Faith” document from USCCB 2012

Preaching the Mystery of Faith — FINAL





2 thoughts on “Unofficial Final version of “Preaching the Mystery of Faith” document from USCCB 2012

  1. e Post author

    Some key excerpts and paraphrases…

    At its heart, the New Evangelization is the re-proposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel, and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging.

    This defines the preacher’s task: enabling the whole community and each individual believer to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and to say with one’s whole being, “Jesus is Lord,” and to cry out to God, “Abba, Father!”

    We can think of ourselves as apprentices to Jesus the Master and so draw inspiration and learning about preaching from the example of Jesus himself as presented in the Gospels.

    Using the technique of lectio divina, which Pope Benedict XVI has recommended to all believers, we are able to absorb more deeply the breathtaking beauty and power of the Scriptures.

    The message of the Gospel is truly a matter of “life and death” for us; there is nothing routine or trivial about it. 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.

    Jesus invites his first hearers to turn from sin, to change their attitude, their entire manner of living, and to now see reality in the light of the Gospel, the Good News of God. This is why every effective homily is a summons to conversion.

    The need for repentance does not mean that homilies should simply berate the people for their failures… At the same time, our responsibility toward our brothers and sisters in Christ includes the need for “fraternal correction” done in a spirit of charity and truth. …A good homily is an occasion to find healing precisely through confidence in Christ Jesus.

    The Church’s urgent call for respect for human life, particularly for those who are most vulnerable, the call for justice for the poor and the migrant, the condemnation of oppression and violations of human and religious freedom, and the rejection of violence as an ordinary means of solving conflicts are some of the controversial issues that need to be part of the Church’s catechesis and to find their way in an appropriate manner into the Church’s liturgical preaching.

    Every homily, because it is an intrinsic part of the Sunday Eucharist, must therefore be about the dying and rising of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial passage through suffering to new and eternal life for us.

    One of the most important teachings of Vatican II in regard to preaching is the insistence that the homily is an integral part of the Eucharist itself… This is why it is preferable that the celebrant of the Eucharistic liturgy also be the homilist.

    Our encounter with Jesus inevitably leads to mission; our love for Jesus translates into our love for others. This is why 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.

    …virtually every homily preached during the liturgy should make some connection between the Scriptures just heard and the Eucharist about to be celebrated. …The sacrifice of the Eucharistic liturgy is the memorial of the Lord’s Death, during the course of which we recognize that “the Lord has truly been raised” (Lk 24:34), is present to us and recognized by us in the breaking of the bread. When this connection is consistently made clear to the Christian people, they will understand the Scriptures and the mystery of the Eucharist ever more deeply.

    Certainly, doctrine is not meant to be propounded in a homily in the way that it might unfold in a theology classroom or a lecture for an academic audience or even a catechism lesson. The homily is integral to the liturgical act of the Eucharist, and the language and spirit of the homily should fit that context.

    Over time the homilist, while respecting the unique form and spirit of the Sunday homily, should communicate the full scope of this rich catechetical teaching to his congregation. During the course of the liturgical year it is appropriate to offer the faithful, prudently and on the basis of the three-year Lectionary, “‘thematic’ homilies treating the great themes of the Christian faith.”

    One effective way to [seamlessly introduce and articulate the doctrines of the Church] might be to connect some point of the homily to a phrase or key idea of the Creed that will be immediately recited by the assembly when the homily is finished.

    Of course, what is essential for speaking about the mysteries of our faith with passion and conviction is that the preacher himself grasps the doctrinal significance of their truth and so loves these mysteries himself that he can communicate that love and truth to his listeners.

    …Jesus was not an abstract preacher but laced his preaching with rich images and provocative stories…But Jesus was not content simply to cite ordinary examples; there is in Jesus’ parables a quality of strangeness, something out of the ordinary, that grips the imagination and triggers wonderment on the part of the hearer… Being an effective storyteller may not be a gift that comes easily to everyone who must preach, but the lesson here is that the homilist must have empathy for human experience, observe it closely and sympathetically, and incorporate it into his preaching.

    The goal of the homily is to lead the hearer to the deep inner connection between God’s Word and the actual circumstances of one’s everyday life.

    While the homily should be respectful of those who hear it and therefore 1 be thoughtful, well-prepared, and coherent, the Sunday homily is not a time for theological speculation.

    Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman shows us that moral challenges presented by the Church’s teaching—such as those in this Gospel story dealing with the delicate issues of sexuality, marriage, and relationships—can be offered and can be heard, provided that they are made in the context of the promise of grace.

    Nearly all parish communities include women and men who have been harmed emotionally and spiritually by an abortion experience. While reminding the community of the beauty and sacredness of human life, the homilist should always emphasize God’s infinite mercy for all sinners, including those suffering after an abortion.

    [T]he time given to preparing the homily must 1 begin with a fruitful time of reflection and prayer.

    As one whose duty is to proclaim the Word of God, the homilist must necessarily be a person with a deep love of the Scriptures and one whose spirituality is profoundly shaped by God’s Word. …The words of the Bible should be readily at hand and often on his lips …His Bible should be near at hand, carrying it with him when he travels …every preacher should regularly consult good scriptural commentaries, both of the technical and “spiritual” type. Also to be recommended are the homilies and biblical commentaries of the Church Fathers, especially those of Origen, St. Augustine, St. Ephrem, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Jerome. …a particularly effective means of immersing oneself prayerfully in the biblical texts is the ancient practice of lectio divina…The whole point of these methods and practices is that the preacher learns to see the world through biblical eyes.

    Tradition along with Scripture, therefore, is an important source from which preachers can draw inspiration.52 Preachers should have the habitus of theology: the steady practice of reading the theological masters (both ancient and modern) and meditating on the great questions that they entertain. They should cultivate a real love for the writings of the doctors of the Church and study with eagerness the manner in which the Church’s life and teaching have developed.

    It would be inappropriate for the homilist to impose on the congregation his own partisan views about current issues. Yet for preaching to be so abstract that it reveals no awareness of or concern for the great economic and social issues that are affecting people’s lives in a serious way would give the impression that the words of Scripture and the action of the Eucharist are without relevance for our everyday experience and our human hopes and dreams.

    Pastoral ministry, and especially the ministry of preaching, challenges the ordained minister to have a deep respect for other cultures and, to the extent possible, to enter into another culture with humility, attention, and deep love. He should strive, above all, to learn the language of the people he serves and, as best he can, to appreciate their manner of thinking, feeling, and acting. Only then can he preach heart to heart.

    Good preaching honors the experience of immigrant families and sympathizes with the challenges of adapting to life in the United States.

    An emphasis on peace and patience together with the encouragement to foster good relations with local Muslims is crucial…when preaching about Islam in any context.

    Fulfilled in Your Hearing provides practical advice about how best to prepare for the Sunday homily, advice that is still valid. … begins and ends with an engagement with the Word of God… study of the text … consulting a good commentary … wrestle with the challenging aspects of the biblical word … drafting the homily in a thoughful manner … reviewing and revising the text of the homily … practice the homily ahead of time … the text or outline serves only as an aid to direct proclamation … follow up preaching by seeking out trusted friends or parish staff to ask how it came across…

    Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Word Incarnate, can serve as an example for those who preach the Sunday homily. Mary is “the one in whom the interplay between the word of God and faith was brought to perfection.”75 When she heard the Word, she listened intently and responded with an unhesitating “yes.” This is why Church Fathers, such as St. Ephrem and St. Augustine, could say that Mary conceived the Word in her heart before conceiving the Word in her womb. Mary surveyed the great events surrounding the Birth of her Son, and she treasured them in her heart. Her response revealed a profound contemplative spirit that strove to understand God’s will for her and the destiny of her Son (Lk 2:19, 51). At the wedding feast of Cana, Mary turned to the table servants and quietly instructed them: “Do whatever he tells you,” revealing thereby her intense focus on Jesus and her docility to his Word (Jn 2:1-12). In her Magnificat, the Mother of Jesus spoke as her Son would, fearlessly proclaiming the prophetic Word (Lk 1:46-55). For all of these reasons, Pope Benedict XVI says, “Mary is the image of the Church in attentive hearing of the word of God, which took flesh in her.”

  2. Thomas

    If you are the “euphemos” who responded with an AMEN to my response on HPR website, thank you! I see most responses want to enhance the CEO abilities of the pastor. I’ve known a few pastors who saw their vocations as much, much higher – praise God!

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