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A Scary Responsibility

Do you like your job? I do not usually get asked that question. In fact, I cannot think of being asked that once since I was ordained as a Catholic priest. It might be because I often show and/or express my appreciation of what I do. I was thinking the other day though: what would I choose if I had to pick between saying the Mass and preaching a homily?

I really do enjoy preaching; it is a place where I can communicate to my children in the faith the truths that God has put on my heart. I am able, by God's grace, to speak to their hearts and work to help them on the path to Heaven. I also enjoy saying the Mass. There is something that is inexplicable in being a priestly instrument of God in the Mass, and it has nothing to do with being an authority (in fact, authority is a bit of a hindrance at times, but that would take a lot to explain).

Picking between the two, however, I would choose to say the Mass. It might not be the reason you would think. It is because the Mass is not subject to my choices. It is given to me by the Church and I can rely on the authority God gave to the Popes and Bishops (both past and present) who are over me. The Mass follows the line of descent back to the Apostles and it is not something that I have to figure out.

A homily, on the other hand, is (in one sense) completely subject to me. I have to pick the subject (each gospel reading can lead to hundreds of different homily subjects). I have to pick what to say. I have to come up with the illustrations to use. On average, to prepare a Sunday homily takes hours (in another sense, it takes decades because I am drawing from the experiences of my entire life) and it is daunting.

The homily terrifies me. What if I say something wrong? The words of the Mass are already decided; I just "say the black, and do the red". What if people do not understand my homily? If they misunderstand the Mass, I did not write it, I just spoke it, so I can explain what the Church means. Explaining what I meant in any given homily is scary. There is always the fear that I might explain what I meant by something in a homily and the listener will not be pleased with my explanation either. Some Sundays I think I might lose a couple pounds just worrying about whether I will speak God's truth correctly.

What an amazing grace God gives me to be called to explain His words. What an amazing grace God gives my listeners to have their hearts and minds touched by God through the simple process of my preaching. As scary as it might be, and as insecure as it might be, it is God's tender love for us that allows this simple process to succeed. For thousands of years now, our Lord has chosen to communicate His truth through fallen and sinful men who are given the ability to serve truth to a hungry people. Let us praise Him for His great mercy to us.


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