Making a good homily

Making a good homily

Rightly or wrongly, people often gauge the value of the Holy Mass by the quality of the homily they hear during that celebration. Of course, this is a very subjective way of valuing the Mass, and therefore should somehow be taken with a grain of salt. But it should be reason enough for all priests to prepare and deliver their homilies as best as they can.

I have heard of people saying that they were willing to make long trips just to hear the Mass of Fr. So-and-So who, to them,gives good homilies. They consider the effort all worthwhile.

There are many things that can go into what can be considered a good homily. One is that it has to be short. It should not be longer than the attention span of the people. A priest-friend of mine mischievously told me once that he makes sure he would already be done with his homily before the people start to sleep.

A homily is not a speech, a lecture or a class. It should have a friendly and serene tone that fosters the encounter between the people and Christ. It is not showtime, with some sing-and-dance sequence, or drama time with crying moments. But it should somehow be something that feeds the mind and heart of the people. In short, their soul.

For this, they have to make sure that the homily isimmediately relevant to people’s lives. This will require a lot ofstudy and meditation of God’s word whose relevance never fades. Thiswill also require that we learn how to relate God’s word to our lives.We really have to know as much as we can the lives and concerns of the
people.

With regard to this point, let’s remember what the Letter to the Hebrews said: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (4,12)

In other words, God’s word will always be relevant and effective in our needs. It is the most important word that we need to be familiar with and, in fact, to make also as our own. It is definitely much more important than what our philosophies, ideologies,sciences and technologies can offer us.

We should know how to make it alive in the homilies. This is where the true mettle of the priests is truly tested. This is where it can be shown whether the priest is truly close to both God and to the people.

The other thing that help priests make a good homily isfor them to get regular feedback from different kinds of people—theyoung and the old, the classes A & B and the C and D, theprofessionals, intellectuals and manual workers. Priests should
encourage people to make feedback.

The feedback can be on the content of the homily, itsrelevance, the manner and tone of the delivery, etc. Priests should behumble enough to consider the feedback seriously.

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