rhubarb & homilies

Sep 5, 2021

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I read an article a few years ago with the title “How to Survive a Sermon”. It was a great reflection making one key point: there are as many people involved in the work of the homily as there are people in the church that morning.

While the preacher does have a central role, the homily is not an entertainment with a performer paid to do all the work – research, translation and presentation. Instead every person who hears the priest is a part of the team that that produces a good homily.

As a small child I would often spend weekends with my grandparents on their farm. The Sunday morning ten-minute drive to their small country church was never as interesting as the trip home when Grandma and Grandad would together pick the priest’s homily to pieces.

Back home over breakfast saveloys and throughout the day as family dropped in, the homily would often come up in conversation – more critique, more discussion, often with strong opinions about what the priest should have said, or how he could have made the scriptures more relevant to South Canterbury farmers and their families.

Most priests find the preparation and presentation of the homily a challenge. We priests are aware that in a congregation of a couple of hundred people the full diversity of the human race is represented. How is it possible for one speaker in five minutes to communicate something that stirs every mind and touches every heart?

We can also admit that most people find homilies to be the most unsatisfying part of the Mass. It’s good that the people expect more, but one wise parishioner commented once that even if the priest repeated the word “rhubarb” one hundred times for five minutes as his homily, the person who had listened to the scriptures and was praying with open mind and heart would hear God speak powerfully through the preacher’s rhubarbs1

Which brings me to a new Food For Faith project: The Homily Studio. The plan is each week to have three or four people ponder the scripture readings of the following Sunday, not as an outline from which a preacher might cut and paste, but as food for faith and a conversation starter.

Our hope is that those parishioners and preachers who take time to listen to the weekly podcasts might be helped to make connections with their own lives, and more ready to hear the Holy Spirit speak directly to them through the Sunday scriptures.

You can listen to this week’s Homily Studio, my conversation with Kath Petrie, Merv Duffy SM and Catherine Gibbs, by clicking on the image below, and sign up to receive these mid-week by checking “homily studio’ at this link.

9 Comments

  1. A very happy Father’s Day John and all fathers

    “Our world today needs fathers…whenever a man takes responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person”
    (+Francis ‘With a Father’s Heart. St Joseph’ , 7)

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  2. Thank you all for your perspectives on today’s Gospel. Hearing other people’s perspective widens my understanding, which in turn opens me up to more, from the words of Jesus in the Gospel. Keep the Homily Studio going, much appreciated.

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  3. Thank You Pa John for your daily reflections and Homily Studio. I look forward each day to reading / listening to them, reflecting and sitting in God’s presence.
    With three other adults and four grandchildren in the house sitting with red is often interrupted in many ways. The beauty of having it on my phone is I can easily and quickly resume reading/ listening / reflecting anywhere anytime. E.g.. sitting in the car waiting for my fish and chips order!!!!!
    Blessings to you Pa John.

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  4. Happy Fathers Day John. Thank you for wonderful spiritual guidance. I have always found your homilies to be very encouraging in my spiritual journey. I listened to the Homily Studio for the first time yesterday, and found it so helpful in preparation for today’s Mass. Thank you for this great ministry. Blessings always
    .Lin

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  5. Just listened to the Homily Studio and found it inspirational and helped put flesh on the,readings. I’m sure it will live in me through out the day.
    Thanks team.

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  6. Love the Homily Studio as I do the daily reflections. Thank you and May God continue to bless you abundantly.

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  7. Years ago I sat in the hushed Sistine Chapel, tears flowing in wonderment at the splendour above me, and that Michelangelo had this beauty within him. Some years later inside the Sagrada Familia, despite it being a construction site with scaffolding and machinery noise, I was spellbound by the grandeur and the deep love for God within Gaudi’s vision. Seeing the beauty of the Sagrada Familia now in the Seasons of Growth video I’m struck again by the awareness that every person has this beauty within especially those struggling with mental illness, addictions etc, that we are/I am still under construction and that God is the Consummate Artist. (Ref. Gaudi video at this link)

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  8. Thank you for the Homily Studio podcast, I didn’t listen before the Mass having just finished now on Sunday afternoon.
    It is wonderful to hear the different perspectives picked up by the contributors and the collective wisdom. My own reflection on the Gospel hadn’t picked up on any of these points and I value the opportunity to consider them now!
    Of note .. I think Bishop Paul might have had a listen, as he had spoken of 2 points brought up in the Studio conversation in his Homily!
    Something else i thought about is whether the Parish Newsletter should be handed out after Mass, as there are many avid readers during the Priests homily who might have to then listen to what is being said

    Reply
  9. Fr John a happy Father’s Day and thank you so much for your daily reflections which I look forward to each day.
    On the subject of homilies I am now finding with age the ability for me to hear clearly what the priest is saying at Mass to be more difficult. There can be several factors causing this! One can be the speech delivery of the priest is not up to the best standard of public speaking. Another could be that the acoustic of the church or chapel even with a P.A. System is not good for public speaking with too long a reverberation time. Another could be like myself the onset of age makes hearing more difficult even with hearing aids! Sometimes I find it sad to have tried to listen to a sermon an missed out on some of the key points!
    Maybe I should prey to Jesus to fix my ears as he did in today’s gospel.

    Reply

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