Five things every Lenten homily must do (and how to help your homilists do them)
All homilies have common elements that should be included regardless of the liturgical season (see Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, 24-27; General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 65-66; Fulfilled In Your Hearing [PDF file])
But the season of Lent has some specific elements and principles that would inform the way the Lenten homilies are prepared. Below are five possible principles. Share your own comments by clicking on the "Comments" link at the end of the post.
- Focus on the Elect (even if you don’t have Elect at that Mass or in your parish) and their preparation for baptism at Easter.
- If they haven’t met them yet, introduce your Elect and their godparents to your homilists, or tell your homilists a little about their faith journey and some of the struggles they have been through.
- Invite your homilists to any gatherings with the Elect, especially to sessions in preparation for the scrutinies.
- If you don’t have any Elect at your parish this year, find out the names of the Elect in a neighboring parish. Have your parish adopt them for the season of Lent by praying for them by name at every Mass.
- Emphasize the assembly’s baptismal commitment, how it’s lived out on the personal, social, and communal levels, and prepare them to renew their baptismal vows at Easter.
- Don’t remove the water from the font!
- Invite back any neophytes and families who baptized their babies in the past year to Lenten gatherings and prayers. Remind the assembly that they made a commitment to help them live out their baptismal promises by their care and example.
- At staff meetings and other gatherings with your homilists, do faith sharing on the issues of the day—those in the parish, in your neighborhood, in the country, and across the world. How does our baptismal call make a difference in these situations?
- Name God’s grace as much as you name sin. How is God acting already in the life of this community? How are God’s actions in this community calling its members to conversion, to turn away from sin and return to the Gospel?
- Keep your eyes open for God at work in the parish, and tell your homilists about it.
- Share your own stories of conversion in your life. Gather with other parishioners and the homilists to do faith sharing and reflection over the upcoming readings.
- Help your homilists keep in mind Fulfilled in Your Hearing, 52 (The preacher does not so much interpret Scripture, as in a bible study. Rather he interprets the lives of the assembly through the Scriptures). Therefore, help him know the lives of your parishioners.
- Include your own call to conversion and your own story of resurrection.
- When you see God working through the daily lives of your homilists, say so.
- Give positive feedback, and be specific about it. That is, instead of just saying, “Nice homily, Father,” say why you liked it. What in his homily helped you hear the Gospel more clearly, or gave you more hope, or challenged you to change, or moved you to act?
- Encourage your homilists to share their own faith stories in their homilies.
- Point to the paschal mystery, and lead the assembly to give thanks at the altar. What are we called to die to this Lent? And what would resurrection look like? How is sacrifice and new life already happening in the community and in the world? Look ahead to the liturgies of the Triduum.
- Name ways the community “washes feet” in their daily lives. How is the cross present in the neighborhood? Where are there signs of new life in the world?
- Reflect on how the parish has been challenged over the last year. What ways has God called them to sacrifice? In what ways has the parish fallen short of that call to conversion?
- Name how Christ has brought new life to the parish over the last year. What are some things the parish is most thankful for?
Other ways to help your homilists:
- Give them more time off or distribute some of the tasks they don’t need to do so they can have more time to work on their homilies.
- Pray and talk with them more. Encourage them more regularly.