Preaching… not important?

Does preaching matter at mass? Sigh, some morons say no.

PrayTell Blog posted this

I recently came across an op-ed in a Catholic publication that just brushed the edge of this argument. The quality of a Mass doesn’t depend on the homily, the writer suggested, nor should we should expect it to. To yearn for good preaching, to seek it out, undervalues the true point of the Mass, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I was left with the vague sense that my desire to have an effective “living commentary” [GIRM 29] on the Scriptures was at best something of an imposition on busy priests, and at worst, a sign of failing faith in the Eucharist. It is sufficient that there is a homily.
I don’t buy it. Sacrosanctum concilium called the homily a “part of the liturgy itself” [SC 52] – which implies that good liturgy entails good preaching.
In the midst of all the bustle around the introduction of the new translations of the Mass texts, and how they might affect our liturgical practice and experience, I want to make a plea for thinking deeply about the translation that is under local control: the homily. What is the quality of that translation – the moving of the Word out of the Lectionary and into our lives?

Brilliant thoughts here. New translations aside, the control and creativity that most priests and deacons will continue to concentrate on will be preaching and that will continue to be what touches the hearts of the faithful along with the Eucharistic ritual.

For those who say preaching is not important: I challenge anyone to say that a single part of the mass is not important. You might want to say that preaching isn’t the MOST important part of the mass–in fact there is no MOST important part. The ENTIRE mass as a whole, from start to finish, is what is important.

And that includes preaching.

A hat tip to concordpastor and Pray Tell Blog.

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11 Comments

  1. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn June 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

    I would heartily disagree with the idea that homilies function ex-opere-operato! They are so important; not sacramental but such an essential part of the liturgical experience.

  2. I agree with Fran (though I had to work my way backwards through the logic to understand the Latin). In my tradition we are “ministers of Word and Sacrament.” Neither is expendable. Heavens, is not Jesus the Word made Flesh? Word and Sacrament in himself? Was not his ministry word and sacrament– preaching and feeding and healing?

  3. I agree with you about the importance of the homily, but I disagree with your use of the word “moron.” It’s needlessly rude and does damage to your argument.

  4. I hear ya, Nick. I just call em as I see em in this case though.

  5. Magdalene,
    Indeed! And we need to be word and sacrament as well.

  6. Is there a word from the Lord to be spoken here? That’s a question that a preacher should always bring to his homily. I would also add that the homilist should also always point us towards the Eucharistic altar and beyond it so that we might be sacrament to the world.

  7. Linda Diane McMillan June 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    The Word doesn’t need to be moved anywhere. It never was in the lectionary. The Word has always lived right in our hearts, right where it belongs. A good homily reminds people of this and then ends.

  8. Well said, Linda!

  9. The reading of the Bible, particularly the Gospel, and its explanation in preaching, is also the real presence of Jesus Christ, speaking in and to the worshipping community at the Eucharist, Mass, Divine Liturgy, Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion — whatever you want to call it. Hence the reason why Christians who worship by the Byzantine and Eastern rites make such a big deal of a procession with the book of the Gospels before that act. Those who think the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist renders preaching unnecessary need to re-read Luke 24:13-32. There, on the road to Emmaus, it is the risen Christ’s exposition of scripture to the two disciples (“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures”) that leads up and into the breaking of bread in which they recognize him (“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them; then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”). “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” the disciples exclaimed in the wake of this encounter. “Opening the scriptures to us” — that is the sacred function and value of preaching, and it precedes gathering at the table to partake of the Eucharist, so that our eyes may truly be opened and our hearts may burn within us in recognition of Jesus. All the more reason for preachers to take their job seriously and do it well. It is a sacramental act.

  10. Gregory–

    Thanks for saying what I was trying to say with more eloquence than I could.

  11. Gregory — A perfect example and eloquent exegesis!

    I wrote the post at PrayTell – and would just like to say as much as I disagree with the position that quality preaching is optional, the author wasn’t a moron, and I’m hoping I didn’t leave that impression!!

    Earlier this year the Irish Times took a critical look at Catholic homilies — and made me wonder what the results would be like if a similar experiment were undertaken in my diocese.

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