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The homily

February 20, 2020

PEOPLE have been asking me about how the homily in the Mass should be. I, of course, find it difficult to answer that question, knowing that behind that question are often critical observations people make, and that every priest has his own style, has his own merits and limits which should be respected.

But what I can say is that, first of all, the homily is an integral part of the Mass, and as much as possible, should not be omitted, especially on Sundays and holy days of obligation. It should be given its due importance and understood properly by both the priests and the faithful attending the Mass.

Pope Francis said that the homily “is not a casual discourse, nor a conference or a lesson, but a way of ‘taking up anew that dialogue which has already been opened between the Lord and his people.’” In other words, the homily is a continuing dialogue that Christ initiates with the people, applying the perennials truths of faith to the current circumstances of the people.

The homily is not therefore some kind of class or lecture, but rather Christ continuing his redemptive work on us, inspiring and edifying us. Pope Francis said that priests should deliver good homilies so that the “Good News” of the Gospel can take root in people’s hearts and help them live holier lives.

What is clear is that the priests in delivering the homily should be very conscious that he is assuming the very person of Christ as head of the Church. He has to project and channel Christ there, not himself. He should be careful not to “steal the spotlight” from Christ.

And the priest should be most aware that he is speaking to the people with the view of helping them to become more and more like Christ, who is pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity. He is not there to entertain them, or to give them a class.

While the priest, of course, can and should make full use of whatever would help the people to listen to him during the homily, the net effect should be that it is Christ whom the people listen, and not just him. The priest should regularly examine himself if such is the case when he delivers the homily.

In this regard, it might be helpful to make use of some words of St. John the Baptist who said, “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3,30) Or some words of St. Paul who said, “It is no longer who lives but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2,20)

The priest should find a way of how he can put these words into his life, into his over-all attitude toward things, and especially when he is giving the homily. He should know well the art of passing unnoticed so that only Christ would shine out.

Indeed, he has to spend time meditating on how he can assume the mind and the presence of Christ wherever he is and especially when he is celebrating the Holy Mass and giving the homily.

He should try his best never to depart from this state of mind, since he is already sacramentally conformed to Christ head of the Church whether he is saying Mass, walking in the street, or doing sport, etc.

Yes, he has to spend time studying the gospel thoroughly so that he can truly incarnate it in himself and express it in ways that can really present Christ who would like to continue his redemptive dialogue with the people of our times.

There should never be room for improvisation. And when for some reason one is caught unprepared because of some emergency situation, he should implore the Holy Spirit to guide him, and let the tremendous wonder of the Spirit speaking through him take place.