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Father Muench Says...

The homily: essential part of every Mass

Feb. 22, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The recent issue of America Magazine, a Jesuit publication, brought up some questions about what priests say in their homilies at Mass. In particular, the magazine brings up a discussion of involving politics and current events in the homilies and how these ideas touch our faith in the Lord Jesus.

I know that I have wondered sometimes just what I should bring up in a homily.  I know that no matter which parish I visit to offer Mass that this congregation is probably divided – whether it is political affiliations or sometimes local situations.

I know that I feel that I might be construed as offering an endorsement because of something I say so I step away to avoid creating divisions instead of building communion with God in my homily.

I do know that there are some contemporary issues in which the teaching of the Church is clear although they may not be clear to all Catholics.  So these issues unfortunately can still be divisive; they demand a deeper explanation.

There are many questions and concerns about what to bring up in a homily.  Let me share with you some of my own ideas about homilies with you.

The homily is an important and necessary part of every Mass.  The Second Vatican Council encouraged all priests or deacons to present a homily at every Mass. 

The homily is meant to be rather different from a sermon.  A homily is based on the Scripture readings of that Mass; the message and lessons for a homily should come from the Scriptures assigned for that Mass.

A homily depends on our trust in God. We accept what comes in the Scriptures that are assigned for this particular feast day.

Let me tell you a little of my path to becoming a preacher.  It began with a gift.  That gift was being involved in a public speaking program during my college days at Wadhams Hall.  The professor of that program was Father Joseph Bailey.

I must say that he was tough on us. I remember well the anxiety each time it was my turn to speak.  He was so challenging  yet, so successful with us.  I know personally that he transformed me from a timid high kid into a more confident speaker.

Preaching is an important part of every priest’s ministry.  I love to preach; it has been a most enjoyable part of my life as a priest.  I realize that my ordination means above all my call to celebrate the sacraments of the Church, especially the offering of Mass. 

Mass is a powerful moment in my own life, truly a constant transforming moment.  The celebration of Mass brings Christ more completely into my life and into my ministry. 

I have the privilege of bringing the presence of Jesus to the people of each congregation through the Holy Eucharist.  Celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass allows me to draw a community together into a family.  We, priests, because of our ordination, are allowed to say the same words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, consecrating the bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ.

For me, the heart of my life as a Catholic Christian and as a Catholic priest, is the Blessed Eucharist. It is such a powerful sacrament.  Reception of the Holy Eucharist unites Jesus to all of us in such a beautiful way.  The sacrament becomes truly a part of us.  We never leave Jesus in Church – Jesus becomes a part of all we do as his disciples.

It is all about gratitude.  The word Eucharist means thank you.  The Mass is a celebration of our gratitude to our God.  The message of our preaching is gratitude.

All that I say in a homily is wrapped up in my gratitude to the Lord for all that Jesus did for the Church, gratitude for all the gifts with which the Lord has blessed me.

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