HOW WAS THE HOMILY?
Restaurants frequently provide cards seeking comments from customers on their dining experience: how was the food, the service, the ambience, the noise level? It might be instructive to make such response cards available at our Sunday Masses inquiring about the homily experience. Here are a few imagined responses that might be received:
"Very interesting, Father, about Jesus, how He was truly God and man. Some of the words were theological terms but you did shed light on them. But the homily was definitely too long. Ten minutes is a good outside figure. But the homily had a difficulty coming to an end. Perhaps too many points were attempted and some would have been better dropped. Sometimes an airplane has to jettison some fuel to make a safe emergency landing. Dropping some of your points would have lightened the load and you could have landed on the ground more quickly instead of circling the airport too long a time."
"Great talk, Father. That story about Timmy and the boat, which he had made and then bought back after it had been lost, was so simple. It effectively delivered the deeper meaning that was your intent. Stories seem to catch interest and are more easily remembered than abstract terms. Congratulations!""Whoa, Father! Your talk had little positive to say. It was so harsh on homosexuals. Really over the line. No distinction between homosexuality and homosexual behavior. Last Sunday, I attended with my daughter and my brother, who is gay. Your condemnations almost appeared to be directed at him. My daughter suggested that we leave. I began to gather up my things. My gay brother reached over and tapped me on the shoulder. "Don't leave, Maria. This is our church, my church, not his! We stayed, but now I go to another parish"
"Congratulations, Father. You must have been in the theater. That distinction between stage business and dramatic action was powerful. Stage business: what you see on the stage - the settings, the costumes, the entrances and exits - the stage business. On the other hand, the dramatic action is something else: what happens among the characters - how they come to perceive each other and how they respond - from affection and love or to anger and rejection; how they perceive themselves in relation to others, to the society around them, to their country and to their God. It applies to the sacraments: part stage business, part dramatic action. Gave me a lot to think about. Thanks!"
"Please, Father. Must abortion be brought into almost every one of your homilies? We Sunday regulars are convinced that abortion is the taking of a human life; that it is wrong; that our society has gone down the wrong road. But, really, should a preacher become almost apoplectic in condemning it? Outsiders see our opposition to pro choice as just another part of the patriarchal attitude of our Church towards women. The soundness of our pro life position would engender more respect if our voice came out of a Church that treated women more fairly than it does. And to tell us how to vote is just not acceptable. A politician's bag has some bad pro choice stuff and some good pro life stuff. The voter has a difficult task sorting out the complex mix. In the 1960s, the two bishops of Puerto Rico told Catholics it would be sinful for them to vote for Luis Munoz Marin for governor because of his state promotion of birth control. New York's Cardinal Spellman quickly issued a public statement that Catholics were free to vote as their own conscience dictated. To tell me otherwise from the pulpit is not acceptable."
"We are grateful to you, Father, and to the other priests who have come to us from Africa, India, and other countries to fill in for shortages of our own priests. But, Father, I could not understand a word of what you said! Many of us think that priests should have a basic proficiency in English before being accepted here. The parish priest is not a sacramental machine. He is to preach the gospel; he is to counsel his people in the Sacrament of Penance and in other settings. But I have a suggestion. Our religious sisters could be a supply pool; among them, educators, theologians, and public speakers. Since for reasons many of us cannot comprehend, they cannot be ordained as priests or deacons. But they could readily be commissioned to preach the homily at Sunday Mass where the priest is simply not up to it. It would be nice if the bishop would pick up my suggestion."