Friday, September 24, 2010

A homiletic note

I was thinking more about preaching this morning while driving, especially what I wrote earlier this week about the need to be careful not to get too carried away with interpreting Scripture, lest the word of God be taken hostage and is borne away violently by no less than the preacher. I reminded myself how easy it is to approach Scripture in a gnostic way, meaning that it is easy to obscure its message, instead of doing my work and seeking to enlighten those to whom I am called to preach. It is also easy to distort the word of God, by preaching something that it does not say, trying to make it conform to my preconceptions, instead of letting it transform me and those who hear me. It is also tempting to try to be clever, even preaching what amounts to sophistry. Another risk is oversimplifying the message, dumbing it down, making each week's readings say the same thing, which also demonstrates our refusal to be challenged by the word of God (i.e., be nice).

St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raffaello Sanzio, ca. 1514-15

I really think last Sunday's Gospel is one that can easily be distorted even to the point of false teaching, but I have already addressed that and perhaps too strongly. Preaching and teaching the truth is a service, a ministry (i.e., a munus and diakonia). Nonetheless, thinking about this again today, these words of St. Paul's came unbidden into my mind:

"When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:1-5- NAB).

St. Paul, holy apostle and tireless preacher of God's Word, Jesus Christ, pray for all preachers that, like you, we may be faithful stewards in proclaiming the mystery of God revaled in Christ our Lord.

This also marks my very first post on my new laptop, which is the third one I have used as a blogger. The first one died, but the second one lives on. It was time for an upgrade and a computer to call my very own, again.


  1. Thank you Deacon Scott -

    We are in our second semester of homiletics - we have to write a homily every week! I am trying my best - but it is very difficult when you work long hours each day and basically fall asleep soon after you get home. You end up with a Saturday evening and a Sunday afternoon to work on it. How do you do it?

  2. The same way. I basically read the readings on Monday, think about them, re-read them, jot a few notes down, and pray. On Saturday, beginning at about 10:00 AM, I sit down and compose my homily. Sometimes it is a 4 or 5 hour endeavor, other times is takes 2 or 3 hours.

    When I preach during the week, since it's much shorter and one less reading, I do it the night before, but I only give myself an hour and-a-half.

    Once in awhile I have time to start during the week, compose a rough draft and revise for several days, putting the finishing touches on it on Saturday. I am never more grateful than when I have something to preach. It always seems to me a great grace.

    Doing it this way, especially when I start stressing, helps me to focus on just preaching the Gospel and not trying to be and look really smart or holy. Just as nobody gets more out of a class than a diligent teacher, I would be surprised if anybody is more challenged by the word of God than I am when I preach it.


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