During the Diocesan Visioning Process in 2010-2011, parishes were asked to consider key aspects of parish life. It is not surprising that vibrant Sunday Eucharist and sacramental life were among the essential elements.
We were also invited to dream about what else “could be” to become fully engaged and fully alive.
We were conscious of preparing for the new Roman Missal, wanting to increase participation and about reclaiming the role of Sunday — the Day of the Lord — with our families. The discussions in parishes and at the diocesan summit also focused on how quality music and good preaching help us to celebrate well.
The first reading speaks of the power of the word of God as the Prophet Ezekiel was sent to Israel to preach. The Gospel tells of Jesus’ preaching in his village synagogue and the people’s surprise. “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given to him? Is he not the carpenter?”
The homily at Mass helps us to make the connection between the Scriptures and our daily lives. God’s word given in ages past is timeless and vital today. Sometimes the message is clear and at other times, especially when it challenges our living or our values, we find it more difficult to hear, and need help to receive it. It’s much easier to hear comforting words, and more difficult to hear those that call for change and improvement. But both are vital for growth.
The homilist has the responsibility to prepare by praying the Scriptures, studying the background, and reflecting on the lives of the people to whom he will preach. Preaching may be easier for a priest or deacon who is with the same faith community each week. Making the life connections is more difficult if he has to move from one congregation to another each week.
But responsibility for the ministry of the word does not rest solely with the homilist. We who receive the word also have a role. First, there is the attitude of receptivity. If words fall on closed ears or hardened hearts not much happens. We develop this receptivity by our prayer for openness, by our study, reading and praying the Scriptures before we come to celebrate, and by thinking about how they apply to our lives.
This preparation can be formal or informal. The Compass lists the Sunday readings and Fr. Vander Steeg’s or Bishop Morneau’s column provides reflection. Some people subscribe to periodicals that have the readings. Some parishes have groups that meet weekly to pray and discuss the readings for the coming Sunday. No matter the method you choose, what it is important is preparing to hear God’s word, taking it to heart and acting upon it.
Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship.