Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Confessions after Mass #3: Never Underestimate the Impact of a Focused Weekday Homily

Like most pastors, I love the "daily Mass crowd."  I appreciate the opportunity to celebrate Mass with them day after day, preaching to them on a consistent and consecutive basis.  In a daily Mass homily, the priest does not need to "swing for the fences."  Rather, he seeks to offer a "nugget" of truth from the Readings of the Day, or from the Saint or Feast of the Day. 

Specifically, the weekday homily should lead to three "R's": Reflection, response, and (this is the main point of my post today) repentance.  It is tempting to settle for a homiletical nugget that is a mere biblical factoid, dug up the night before from a commentary or an internet "homily helper."  For example, in today's Gospel from Matthew 20, concerning the laborers who begin to work at different times of the day yet receive an equal wage from the landowner at the end of the day, the pastor naturally tends to ask himself, "Is there anything interesting or curious about this passage?"  Better, however, to ask a different question, "Lord, how might today's readings be a two-edged sword, opening the minds and hearts of the parishioners to your piercing truth, leading them to a concrete and decisive response, to a change of heart, to repentance?"

A good daily homily brings a clear, focused word that the hearer can reflect upon and respond to that day. The Hebrew word for "meditate" is related to a word used to describe a cow chewing its cud, bringing the food back up from its stomachs to draw additional sustenance out of what has already been chewed. This is perhaps not an image that goes well with one's morning cup of coffee. Yet this curious origin of the word "meditate" teaches us about the appropriate response to God's Word: Not giving it a quick, breezy hearing, but rather a slow, deliberate consideration, over and over again.

The weekday homily should typically conclude with a concrete application or directive.  "As you go through the rest of your day, pay attention to how many times you become jealous of the good things that are happening with your family members or co-workers."  "The Lord tells us in today's Gospel that He is generous.  Ask the Lord for a spirit of gratitude today.  Specifically, find at least one opportunity each hour of the day today to give thanks to the Lord."  "Consider making a good confession today after Mass or tomorrow before Mass, asking God to forgive you for any jealousy and ingratitude in your heart."

Don't allow the daily Mass homily to remain at the level of the ethereal.  Give your parishioners something to chew on!


  1. Amen! Too many times we have all heard "Today's Gospel isn't about Jesus actually multiplying the loaves--rather, the miracle was that everyone shared what they had." UGH! If you only have 5 minutes to say something, at least keep it orthodox, and ideally (as you put it) let the readings be the two-edged sword that they naturally are!

  2. Woohoo! Amen. You said it. Preach it Father. Here is a homily about that very topic I just gave a few days ago: