Monday, December 14, 2009

Homily Suprise

Ok, so I want to share one other thing about homilies. Before I got ordained, I was scandalized at the poor quality of some of the homilies I heard. 15 or minutes long -- I don't care if it is Sunday, Danny, that's way too long. 3-5 separate points -- dude, you freaking lost me at hello. And above all, boring boring boring. Dead inside. I would get more out of listening to Charlie Brown's teacher. In fact, maybe that guy was Charlie Brown's teacher.

(Do we even need to mention the homilies that are trying to pick fights, lecture or command?)

"It can't hurt you if you don't listen to it."

So here's the twist of the knife. I've been preaching for about 7 years now, and you know, one thing I've discovered is that it's really NOT that easy. I swear to you, there are weeks that I work my tail off on a homily and it is an embarrassment. I spend the eucharistic prayer swimming through waves of shame, and I have to force myself at communion not to look into each parishioner's eyes for a glimmer of affirmation.

Other weeks, I stand up without an ending -- really, no clue how the thing should end. Heart pounding, clammy skin. And it all comes together out of freaking nowhere.

The Jesuit Bob Purcell used to do this thing called a one-minute retreat.
It went like this: Who's big?
Then we'd point up at the sky.
Who's small?
We'd point at ourselves.
Who's strong? Sky.
Who's weak? Yo.
Who's smart? Sky.
Who's not? Here I am.

And that's basically the experience of preaching, in a nutshell. It's wondrous. Also pretty darn humbling.


Michelle said...

I very much enjoyed these tours of the homily from the other side of the altar rail. The image of the "spiritual off ramp" is a powerful one -- if I walk off with one thing to contemplate from a homily, all was well with the homily. Sometimes the most fruitful sermons have been objectively awful -- but forced me thereby to think why it fell so flat. They create a space in which the Spirit can work...

And now that I write a weekly reflection on the scriptures for my archdiocese - I have a deeper appreciation for the time and discipline it takes to prepare prayerfully and seriously to preach the Word. Two years in I was just beginning to wonder how many "homilies" I have in me -- I'm glad to know I'm not alone! (As long as there are five or six good ones.)


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