Preaching About the Mass

These ten homilies, along with much of this introduction, were originally published in the Liturgy Training Publications book Preaching About the Mass (LTP, Chicago, 1992). They are not "canned" sermons to be scheduled in a sermon series; rather, they are intended to be examples of what homilies on the Mass might sound like. They are offered to inspire the preacher and those who assist in homily preparation to go and seek the right words for their place and time. They are intended to be just one part of a comprehensive parish program of formation on the Mass. As you work your way through them you can imagine the shape that such a catechetical program might take in your parish.

The homily's purpose is not primarily to impart information. Before deciding to preach about the Mass at Mass, parish leaders would do well to review the purpose of a homily by reading Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Homily in the Sunday Assembly. This document, from the United States Bishops' Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, reminds us that "the homily is preached in order that a community of believers who have gathered to celebrate the liturgy may do so more deeply and more fully-more faithfully-and thus be formed for Christian witness in the world" (#43). It also says that the homily is not a lecture but a "scriptural interpretation of human existence which enables a community to recognize God's active presence in faith through liturgical word and gesture, and beyond the liturgical assembly, through a life lived in conformity with the gospel" (#81).

To enable the assembly to celebrate the liturgy more deeply, fully, faithfully-this is the purpose of preaching about the Mass. To do so requires that the homily be more poetry than prose, more an interpretation of meaning than an exposition of facts. These sample homilies attempt to illustrate how that might be done. As you read through each one, think about how you can incorporate its ideas into the preparation process for your own homilies. One recommendation is to follow the homily preparation process outlined in chapter 4 of Fulfilled in Your Hearing by making a group of parishioners part of the process.

The best time of the year for preaching on the Mass is the Easter season, which already has a strong mystagogical focus. The first six homilies presented here are models for preaching from the Second Sunday of Easter to the Seventh. They "recognize the mystery" by reflecting on the assembly, its gathering, its listening to the word (two parts), its giving thanks and praise (two parts).

The last four homilies approach the same mystery of the assembly's role at Mass from a different perspective. Instead of going through the rite from start to finish, these homilies address the elements of rite: song, posture, movement, and the material objects we use. They may be used independently or in place of homilies three, four, five, and six on the Sundays of Easter. Homilies one and two might precede them if they are used consecutively. With a little planning and foresight, the material from some of these homilies could also be used at other times of the year, such as the stretch of Sundays that focus on the Bread of Life in the summer of Year B.