Prepare before Mass so heart is open to really hear homily

Published: May 5, 2018

By Judy Hoelzeman
St. Edward Church, Little Rock

If I went to a different Mass on Sunday than my parents did, this question usually waited for me when I got home: “What did Father say in the sermon?” I’d think: “Oh no, if only I had listened instead of whispering with my best friend Anne.”

Even now, it is not always easy to pay attention during the homily at Mass. But this is a different time. Now, we realize that we in the pew are there as “conscious and active participants, rather than as mere observers.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)

Just as the homilist prepares, we can and should prepare. The homily is meant to lead us to praise and thank God for his gift of Jesus Christ. In fact, “Eucharist” means thanksgiving. The role of the homilist is to draw on the Scripture readings to point to the presence of God — God’s pardon, acceptance and love present in our lives.

Clearly, the homilist has a monumental responsibility. As he does this, the homilist faces various obstacles. He may be speaking to several different ages, races, economic levels and ethnic groups.

The homily prepares us to receive the Body and Blood of God’s Son in the most important way God commanded us to. Clearly, the homilist has a monumental responsibility. As he does this, the homilist faces various obstacles. He may be speaking to several different ages, races, economic levels and ethnic groups.

In addition, the life experience of his audience varies. Among the congregation may be people grieving deaths of loved ones, facing illness or troubled marriages or money woes. Some may be fighting addiction or frantic about a child’s addiction. Some are committed to their faith and nourished by it, others halfhearted and tired of searching for meaning. While this diversity accurately represents the Body of Christ, it is a challenge for the person preparing and delivering the homily.

As listeners, we face obstacles as well. Maybe the sound system and/or our hearing isn’t good. We can’t understand the speaker or maybe he’s not very well prepared. Babies cry; people cough; our backs hurt; we get irritated. Maybe we can’t relate to the message, or it angers us, or we feel misunderstood or just discouraged.

The following practices will help you become familiar with the Gospel of the day in advance and should lead you to be more nourished by the homily. During the week, read the assigned readings for the coming Sunday. They are available at usccb.org, in mail or e-mail missalette subscriptions, in a Sunday or daily missal and perhaps in your parish bulletin.

Ponder on the readings and read a written reflection. At Mass, listen carefully to the Scriptures. Look at the person proclaiming the Word. If you can’t hear or understand, read along in the missallette. Watch for “kernels,” words or phrases that touch you. When it’s time for the homily, remember that expectations may trip you up. Be open to what is to come.

If you feel agitated as you listen, repeat one of the “kernels” as a meditation. Otherwise, listen carefully for parts of the homily that make the most sense to you. At the end of the homily, identify one thing you heard that seems to be a call from God. What might God be asking? What might God be answering?

When the homily has helped you, compliment the homilist by mentioning specifically what helped you and why. The word of God has divine power — the power to transform. Time spent preparing to hear that word is time well spent.