Good Homily Reflection

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I heard an excellent homily last week, delivered by a young priest who spoke with passion and energy. It was clearly his own take on how the Gospel reading for this daily Mass spoke to him. He crafted it to offer lessons to us. It was beautiful, but that wasn’t what struck me. What moved me most this day was the very existence of this man and his vocation. I had a sudden and overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I’ll try to explain why.

There were only about ten of us in attendance. He crafted that homily for us. It required that he read ahead of time and think hard. He had clearly done some additional reading on the topic. He probably spent some time in prayer. Then he delivered it and could only hope that people would listen and learn from what
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He is called upon to understand—and fully explain and even solve—our troubles, issues, difficulties, struggles, failings, sins, and to comprehend and care about the endless details of our lives, to the precise extent to which we share them and call upon his intervention. In the confessional, he is (contrary to myth) not a judge but a dispenser of the grace of God’s forgiveness and comforting love.

Meanwhile, no one really ever asks us to understand his failings. Far from it: we imagine ourselves in the position of being his judge, never dispensing forgiveness but more commonly suspicion, detraction, and calumny. Catholics themselves are severe enough in this respect, but the rest of the world is ever more disapproving of the priesthood itself. His very existence is a provocation to debate every issue from the existence of God to the meaning of life. He is a lightening rod and yet must act nonchalant about this fact, going about his business as if to ignore the suspicions and doubts all around him.

A quick anecdote along these lines: I was in Rome a few months ago and met some high Church officials, and was pleased to take photographs with them. I posted them publicly and was happy and honored to do so. But of course I braced myself for the fallout from here and

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