How to Prepare a Homily – Tips from Pope Francis

I confess I wasn’t expecting to find instructions on preparing a homily in Pope Francis’ book The Joy of the Gospel. For many pastors much of this will be basic but I found his discussion lively and helpful. Francis says the homily is a vital part of the liturgy since it “is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people.” (101) He starts with saying that the preacher “must know the heart of his community, in order to realize where its desire for God is alive and ardent, as well as where that dialogue, once loving, has been thwarted and is now barren.” (102)

1)      Call upon the Holy Spirit in prayer. (108)

2)      Give your entire attention to the biblical text “which needs to be the basis of our preaching.” This should be done “with the greatest care and holy fear lest we distort it.” (108)

a)      Be sure you understand the words. “Even if we think we understand the words translated into our language, this does not mean that we correctly understand what the sacred author wished to say. (109)

b)      Discover the principal message and purpose of the text. “If the preacher does not make this effort, his preaching will quite likely have neither unity nor order; what he has to say will be a mere accumulation of various disjointed ideas incapable of inspiring others.” “If a text was written to console, it should not be used to correct errors; if it was written as an exhortation, it should not be employed to teach doctrine; if it was written to teach something about God, it should not be used to expound various theological opinions; if it was written as a summons to praise or missionary outreach, let us not use it to talk about the latest news.” (110)

c)      Relate the text to the teaching of the entire Bible as handed on by the Church. This is important because “the Holy Spirit has inspired not just a part of the Bible, but the Bible as a whole, and that in some areas people have grown in their understanding of God’s will on the basis of their personal experience.” (110)

3)      Have a personal familiarity with the word of God. Head knowledge is not enough. “He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him.” (111) The preacher should examine himself “to see if [he has] grown in love for the word which we preach.” (111) “Yet if he does not take time to hear God’s word with an open heart, if he does not allow it to touch his life, to challenge him, to impel him, and if he does not devote time to pray with that word, then he will indeed be a false prophet, a fraud, a shallow imposter.” (113)

4)      Use the method of lectio divina. “It consists of reading God’s word in a moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us.” (113)

5)      Take care in the way the homily is crafted. “Concern for the way we preach is likewise a profoundly spiritual concern. It entails responding to the love of God by putting all our talent and creativity at the service of the mission which he has given us; at the same time, it shows a fine, active love of neighbor by refusing to offer others a product of poor quality.” (117)

“Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with the new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties.” (123)

Joy of the Gospel

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s