Engage your heart in the homily

By Linda Zahorik | For The Compass | September 23, 2016

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

Do you remember what you heard in last Sunday’s homily? I don’t. Moreover, for me, part of my job has me being present at many of the weekend Masses; so I heard that homily three times.

We have a hard time listening. The rich man in today’s Gospel recognizes that. From his place of torment, he pleads with God to send someone back from the dead to talk to his brothers because they really are not listening to Moses and the prophets.

The homily is given to us as a gift for our Christian journey. In listening to it, we discover God’s promise; we are challenged to turn from sin; we are given reason to be filled with gratitude; and we are encouraged toward acts of kindness and mercy. Yet, distractions happen. Sometimes it’s hard to focus. Some homilies follow a more appealing theme for us, and some priests and deacons are just better homilists than others. Despite our good, prayerful intentions, the words of the homily can just slip away from us.

So how might you prepare to better hear the homily this Sunday? The first thing to do is pray for those who will be preaching homilies. Ask God to bless the homilists, to immerse them in the Scriptures and to quiet their hearts that they may receive God’s word and blessing.

Prepare yourself. Many parish bulletins list the readings that will be used the following weekend. If you have a computer, you can go to www.usccb.org/bible/readings. Take time to read the passages in your Bible. Spend quiet time looking for any words or images that have a special meaning to you.

Good worship relies on a body that is well rested and a soul that is well prepared. Saturday evenings tend to be very social times for us, but make an effort to have a good night’s sleep before you go to Mass. Plan ahead regarding what you will wear, what you will eat, how you will interact with others. That way, in those hours before Mass, your mind and heart will have begun to become quiet and centered and you are assured of being ready to listen to God’s transforming words.

Perhaps you might want to jot down a few notes. Granted this is something we Catholics might be uncomfortable doing, taking notes in church, but writing something down helps us remember. Listen for a few key points; perhaps add a thought on how you can live out the Scriptures in the coming week. You may find your notes also provide you with points of continued prayer.

Each of us, at one time or another, has heard a phrase or idea in a homily that deeply moved us, comforted us, challenged us or assured us of God’s great love. This can only happen when we engage ourselves with the homily. Listening to the homily is not just an exercise of the mind; it is a matter of the heart.

Lastly, our lives should reflect what we have seen, heard and experienced at Mass. We should go back into our daily lives just a little better. In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us that we are the Scriptures seen and read by everyone (2Cor 3:2-3).

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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