Connecting people with God

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

This is a tremendous challenge to priests especially when they –we, me included, of course– give homilies during Mass which is a very privileged occasion for us to preach in Christ’s name as head of the Church.

At this point, it may good to remit some relevant words issued in 1997 by eight Vatican offices about “Questions regarding collaboration of non-ordained faithful in priests’ sacred ministry.”

“The homily,” they said, “during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, priest or deacon, to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as ‘pastoral assistants’ or catechists in whatever type of community or group.

“This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”

Thus, priests have a tremendous duty to deliver the homily in such a way that connects people with God instead of just with us. We may be able to connect with the people because of brilliant ideas, oratorical and rhetorical skills, gimmicks, jokes, anecdotes, song-and-dance numbers, etc. –these have their legitimate value. But the question to ask is whether we are connecting people with God and not just with us, since that’s what’s most important in delivering the homily.

If we don’t even know how we can say that we are connecting people with God, then we have to admit we have a big problem. Of course, it isn’t a problem so big that it cannot be solved. Rather, it is problem that is challenging priests to do our best to give justice to this privilege of ours to preach.

We have to use all the means, human, spiritual, and supernatural, to preach in the Christ’s name. We need to study well the word of God, meditating on it continually so it can be an organic part, nay, the inspiring principle of all our thoughts, words and deeds. A certain connaturality has to develop between God’s word and our life.

For this, the sciences of philosophy and theology are indispensable. We also need to avail of any science and source of knowledge to help us relate the word of God to different conditions of people and vice-versa. If there’s real faith, we can actually use anything to convey God’s word to the people and connecting them with God.

When delivering the homily, we must make sure we aren’t contented with the feeling that people listen. That, of course, is already a big success. What’s more important is we have the gut feeling that people are listening to God.

We have to develop the intuition that people are listening to God instead of to us only. This can only happen if we priests take our spiritual life seriously in the sense that we really make the effort, with God’s grace to identify ourselves more and more with Christ, of whom we are his sacramental ministers.

In this regard, we cannot overemphasize the need for constant prayer and sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, the continuing development of virtues and the waging of a lifelong spiritual struggle against our weaknesses, temptations, and sins.

There has to be the sensation that one is becoming more and more like Christ. This isn’t some kind of presumption. It’s actually an obligation inherent to the fact that one is ordained to be ‘another Christ’ with the authority of Christ as head of the Church.