Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Art of Preaching

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Dear Friends in Christ,

In 2008 a request came from the Synod of that year in Rome on ‘The Word of the Lord’ for guidelines to assist ordained preachers in their task of proclaiming the homily within the Eucharistic celebration, especially at Sunday Mass.

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In response to this request the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of The Sacraments have this week published a Homiletic Directory.

Those charged with the office of preaching will, I am sure, derive considerable help from what is a wide-ranging Directory.

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Any attempt at summarising the Directory would fail to do it justice. Foremost among its salient points which struck me was the organic importance of the homily within Mass and how it should be viewed as an ‘event’.  When Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth, taking his text from the prophet Isaiah, (Luke 4:16ff) he declared that this prophecy was being fulfilled as his audience listened.

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The Directory states that likewise, in the homily given at Mass, the Word of God comes alive and finds fulfilment in the lives of the congregation as they hear it.  For those present, the Word of God is fulfilled here and now!

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Again, according to the Directory, the homily should express the faith of the Church, be based on the sacred text just read, and so lead the community of the faithful to celebrate the Eucharist fully and actively. The Directory adds that the homily in essence should reflect on the meaning of the readings and prayers of Mass in the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in which those present at Mass have a very share.

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The Directory exhorts the homilist to be aware of the context and unity of the whole of Scripture which must be read within the living tradition of the whole Church. All Scripture breathes Christ, as it were, and his Paschal Mystery is ultimately the key to the whole of Scripture.

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The homily should be composed in a context of prayer and ought to be simple, clear, direct and adapted to the local needs and culture of the particular congregation. Many other practical hints are offered as to the style and content of a homily at Mass.

Epiphany Is Celebrated At Vatican City

The three indispensable pillars on which preaching should be founded are Sacred Scripture, the Church’s understanding and interpretation of Scripture down the centuries, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These principles are expanded upon and explained in the course of the Directory.

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A large section of the Directory on Homiletics is devoted to suggestions and aids for preaching during the major liturgical seasons of the year, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.  The clear reason for this is for the doctrinal significance of these seasons be set clearly before the congregation to enable believers to enter fully into the design of God’s saving plan culminating in Christ, a plan of which they themselves are a part and which is fulfilled anew each time they listen.

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The Directory on Homiletics published by the Vatican has much to recommend it and will prove a valuable tool of proclaiming the living Word of God to his believing people.

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Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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