(3.5) The Homily
Liturgical Prayer and Action
After the reading of the Gospel, the Homily follows in which an ordained minister (bishop, priest or deacon) explains the meaning of the passages that’s just been read and how it can be applied in our life.
The assembly remains seated and listens actively.
At the end of the Homily it is appropriate for there to be a brief silence for recollection (GIRM).
Origin and Meaning
The preaching after reading the scripture is an ancient practice such as when the Levites, "helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading" (Neh 8:7-8).
Jesus also followed the same practice when he went to the synagogue and, "stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him" (Lk 4:16-17). He explained the meaning of the Scripture and its fulfilment unfolded as he was rejected by his own people of Nazareth.
In similar manner to the reading of the Gospel, giving Homily is only reserved for ordained ministers because:
a) it is in recognition of the authority given by Christ to his Apostles to proclaim the Gospel (Mt 28:18-20). This apostolic responsibility has been passed on to their successors — the bishop who then shares the responsibility with the priest and the deacon.
b) so that we may avoid misunderstanding of the Gospel with other individual's teaching based on personal biases, experiences or lack of understanding of the Scriptures.
How I wish that I may say that I understand the Bible well but it is not enough that we understand the language in which the bible is written because the spiritual meaning of the passages can only be revealed through God's grace. When Jesus asked his disciples on the nature of his being, only Simon out of the 12 apostles was able to proclaim to Jesus:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven" (Mt 16:16-17).
The Homily is thus necessary for the nurturing of our Christian life. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), it should be:
a) an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or
b) an explanation of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and
c) should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
Note: The Ordinary of the mass refers to parts of the mass that is constant without regards to the date on which the mass is taking place (Kyrie, Gloria, Creed).
In contrast, the Proper refers to parts of the mass that varies according to date in the Liturgical year (Introduction, Offertory, Communion).