September 26, 2019
Seminary honours Fr Hugh Joyeau
September 26, 2019

Questions for the would-be preacher

Archbishop Jason Gordon continues discussing key aspects of the homily.

The Dynamic of the Text is finding that action in the text, that Christ wants to invite the congregation to take. It is something that is happening in the reading itself that jumps off the page and speaks to the heart of the community of faith.

It often answers an existential itch the community has, or confronts a blindness  hindering discipleship.

It speaks eloquently to the heart and soul of the preacher and the congregation. It offers a developmental step towards missionary discipleship. It is often communicated in a sentiment and an image.

If you want to preach to the millennial generation (persons born between 1982 and 2004), and have them listen, you have to be this vulnerable before God.

This generation does not listen to authority. They do not care what university or seminary you attended, far less with which degree you graduated.

They want authenticity: do I see a man of God before me? If they do, then you have the privilege of being heard. To be heard consistently, you will need to communicate through an idea, a sentiment and an image.

I will now propose four questions to every would-be preacher. My advice is, never go to the pulpit unless you can answer these questions honestly and clearly:


  1. What is Christ saying to His community through the reading we are given?
  2. Why is this important?
  3. What is one step that Christ is asking the congregation to make towards fulfilling this Word?
  4. What is the one really big idea to be communicated?


When you can answer these questions, you are ready to begin pulling together the homily. To answer these questions, the preacher needs to be on his knees before God in humble submission.

I often end up begging and pleading for the Word to be manifest. It is humbling! It leaves me vulnerable! It requires of me coming to that place of encounter where I am willing to surrender my will and ego to Christ.

Like Jacob, I often wrestle with the Lord. Like Jacob I am often wounded by the wrestling. Like Jacob, I often see the ladder and peek into the Heavenly liturgy. I pray that like Jacob I will end up obedient to God’s Word.

I define the Dynamic of the Text as: The encounter with the Word of God that speaks from the text that if acted upon, challenges the preacher and the community to the next step towards Authentic Integral Human Development. The purpose of the homily, is leading the community individually and collectively, towards Authentic Integral Human Development.

Authentic Integral Human Development is the vocation of the Church! This bold statement was first proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Populorum Progressio. It was reaffirmed and raised in status by Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

It is the development of all people, of each person and every dimension of the person. This is the vocation of the Church, or what the Church is called to by Christ.

Commenting on Paul VI’s vision, Pope Benedict XVI says: “…the whole Church, in all her being and acting—when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity—is engaged in promoting integral human development. (11, Caritas in Veritate).

This form of development has been simplified into three interlocking ideas by Matthew Kelly—(1) We are all called to become the best version of our self, (2) To achieve this we commit to incremental growth (small steps), (3) continually. The best version of our self is to be a saint.

Pope Paul VI lays out the steps in Populorum Progressio, paragraphs 20 and 21, as moving from a less human condition: the lack of material necessities, moral deficiencies and oppressive social structures, to more human—possession of necessity, victory over social scourges, growth in knowledge, increased esteem for the dignity of others turning towards the spirit of poverty and cooperation for the common good.

Then further movement to even more human: acknowledgement of supreme values, and of God their source, faith a gift of God who calls us to share as sons and daughters in the life of the living God.

This vocation of development must become the underpinning of all pastoral ministry. The homily is the place where we can most effectively assist our people in opening their eyes to the vocation to development. More importantly, it is how a pastor invites his people to make incremental steps every week towards this development, which is towards holiness.

The demand of development on the priest means that the priest needs to be a real human being. He must be on a path of development.

Before God, he needs to bring everything—the good, the bad and the ugly. He needs to stand naked before God in all of his poverty and shame; in his pride and arrogance; in his growing recognition of how far he is from the person God wants him to be.

It is only in our weakness that God’s grace works in and through us. St Paul discovered this when he prayed three times for the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh. Three times the Lord answered him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).