Interpreting the Word

The Homily

What Not to Miss

  • "Homily" comes from a Greek word meaning "explanation." It takes spiritual and intellectual work to interpret the Scriptures, and homilies are meant to help us with that work.
  • Explaining the Scriptures for the people is one of the duties of bishops, priests, and deacons. God gives them grace through their ordination to participate in his office of prophet or teacher in a special way.
  • The Church requires that a homily be preached on Sundays and holydays because all of the faithful should be at Mass. She advises priests to preach on weekdays as well. The assembly may be smaller, but those present can still benefit from the exposition of God's Word.
  • Clergy can choose to preach on one or more of the Scripture readings and/or the day's Mass prayers.

Next Time You Go to Mass...

  • Humbly admit that however holy or intelligent you may be, you can always use the guidance of the Church to better understand the Scriptures.
  • Listen actively, attentively, and receptively.
  • Afterward, ask yourself, "How did the Holy Spirit speak to me through the homily? How can I change my life to conform to God's Word?"
  • Talk about the homily with your family and friends after Mass.
  • Some priests/deacons are excellent homilists, while others are less so. None are infallible. Be charitable as you listen and afterward as you reflect on the homilist's words.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.