This is a big, tremendous challenge to priests especially when they—we, me included, of course—give homilies in the Mass which is a very privileged occasion for us to preach in the name of Christ as head of the Church.
At this point, it may good to remit some relevant words issued in 1997 by eight Vatican offices regarding “Questions regarding collaboration of non-ordained faithful in priests’ sacred ministry.”
“The homily,” they said, “during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, priest ordeacon, to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as ‘pastoral assistants’ or catechists in whatever type of community or group.
“This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”
Thus, we priests, have a tremendous duty to deliver the homily in such a way that we connect people with God instead of just with us. We may be able to connect with the people because of our brilliant ideas, our oratorical and rhetorical skills, our gimmicks, jokes, anecdotes, song-and-dance numbers, etc.—all of them having their legitimate value. But the question to ask is whether we are connecting people with God and not just with us, since that is what is most important in delivering the homily.
If we do not even know how we can say that we are connecting people with God, then we have to admit we have a big problem. Of course, it is not a problem so big that it cannot be solved. Rather it is problem that is challenging us, priests, to do our best to give due justice to this privilege of ours to preach in the name and person of Christ.
We have to use all the means, human, spiritual and supernatural, to be able to preach in the name of Christ. Definitely we need to study well the word of God, meditating on it continually so that it can be an organic part, nay, the inspiring principle of all our thoughts, words and deeds. A certain connaturality has to develop between God’s word and our life.
For this, the sciences of philosophy and theology are, of course, indispensable. But we also need to avail ourselves of any science and source of knowledge that would help us relate the word of God to the different conditions of the people and the vice-versa. If there is real faith, we can actually make use of anything to convey the word of God to the people and connecting them with God.
When delivering the homily, we must to see to that we are not contented with the feel that the people are listening to us. That, of course, is already a big success. What is more important is that we have the gut feel that the people are listening to God.
Somehow we have to develop the intuition that people are listening to God instead of to us only. I suppose this can only happen if we priests take our spiritual life seriously in the sense that we really make the effort, with the grace of God, to identify ourselves more and more with Christ, of whom we are his sacramental ministers.
In this regard, we cannot overemphasize the need for constant prayer and sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, the continuing development of virtues and the waging of a lifelong spiritual struggle against our weaknesses, temptations and sins.
There has to be the sensation that one is becoming more and more like Christ. This is not some kind of presumption. It is actually an obligation inherent to the fact that one is ordained to be ‘another Christ’ with the authority of Christ as head of the Church./WDJ