Monday, January 16, 2012

Father, It’s Been Less Than an Hour Since Your Last Confession

     Sermons are as varied as the clergy who give them, but I agree with Fr. James A. Wehner, S.T.D. (Sacrae Theologiae Doctor), author of The + Evangelization + Equation= The Who, What, and How, that the best ones contain valuable lessons in faith formation.  An off-the-cuff (or the collar as it were) homily that’s more a stroll down memory lane for the priest than a strong illustration of Scripture readings, holy days, an edifying look at the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church, the lives of the saints, or even a spiritual insight that really brought home one of Christ’s teachings seems like a waste of valuable time to me.
     I have seen how true it is that Mass is and ought to be treated as the primary tool for faith formation.  If the priest does little more than describe part of his childhood, maybe tell a few funny jokes, and offers the congregation nothing more substantial that he’s doing a disservice to the assembly.  The numbers of people in the pews as declined for many reasons over the years, but how do we expect to change that if the minister serving in persona Christi doesn’t prepare a suitable sermon to feed his flock and help nurture them in the faith?
     You’re missing the mark if when given the microphone to break open the Word of God, you put little more thought, effort, study, and prayer into it than you would a spontaneous toast at a friend’s birthday party.

     I have seen, experienced, and understand that some priests and deacons seem to have an innate gift for writing and delivering beautiful sermons that help people connect on a deeper level with certain aspects of Scripture passages.  Others are entertaining storytellers who are able to relate through hilarious, true anecdotes, how they’ve struggled to live out the Gospel values in the modern world.  Some take a very abstract, theological approach that involves quotes and examples from the saints and apostles.  I’m impressed and inspired by the priests who in an informal, completely genuine way, discuss what the Church calls us to do and how he’s challenged by it as much as the next person.  I learn something valuable from every one of these approaches.     I’d rather be edified, inspired, and instructed at Mass than have a sinking feeling of disappointment when listening to a preacher use “prime time for faith formation and catechesis” as a laidback, extemporaneous and completely unrelated stroll down memory lane. 
     Listening to the Word of God and receiving the Eucharist are the two main parts of the Mass.  Why not use a prime teachable moment in between the two parts of the Liturgy to help the congregation learn and understand more about God’s unconditional love and Christ’s Supreme Sacrifice?
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