This is the fourth post in a series on evangelistic preaching in Catholic contexts.
Our look at Church documents and history reveals that preaching is not limited to either the setting or function of the Eucharistic homily.
Okay, you say. Enough, I get it. But, the Eucharistic homily is what’s really important right? The others are just extras–you know, something nice to do, right?
Not quite. The many forms of Catholic preaching are designed to work in a complementary, not competitive way.
The Eucharistic homily does have a distinct place. A singular role. A unique function. It is specifically for ongoing formation, after the first proclamation of the Gospel.
Preaching can, of course, include multiple functions within the same setting, “the same homily…can take on both the functions of convocation and of integral initiation.” However, the reality of our theology is that Mass is not designed for the unbeliever to come to faith for the first time.
In Josef Pieper’s In Search of the Sacred (1988), we are reminded that in the early Church, “barriers…excluded those who did not ‘belong’ from participating in the sacred mysteries [of the Mass], even those who prepared for baptism, the catechumens.” Although as a pastoral practice this is, “for us latter-day Christians, used as we are to taking the television broadcast of Mass for granted… difficult to comprehend,” the reality remains that theologically, Mass is not the primary place of pre-evangelization or initial proclamation–all critical stages in our robust understanding of the process of evangelization as a whole (p. 34).
Thus, Eucharistic preaching is the long pole in the “tent” of Catholic preaching–but not the only pole.
This description leads us towards understanding different forms of preaching by function, related to stages of evangelization. Preaching aimed at disposing hearers to be open to God is pre-evangelistic. Preaching intended to bring hearers to fundamental, inner converstion is evangelistic. And instruction for the faithful through preaching is catechetical preaching. The point of Eucharistic preaching is not to try and be primarily pre-evangelistic, evangelistic, or catechetical–a Eucharistic homily should be just that, a sermon given to a gathered community of faith, intrinsically linked to the liturgical action of the Mass.
And, in order for Eucharistic preaching to be able to most authentically be what it ought to be, we need pre-evangelistic, evangelistic, and catechetical preaching — so that together these many forms of Catholic preaching can truly complement each other, together carrying the weight of the Church’s preaching.
 GDC, para. 52.
Image Credits (in order):
Icing on Cupcake: https://pinterest.com/icingonthecake4/
Tent Pole: http://over40innovator.blogspot.com/2010/02/us-economy-tentpole-and-global-economic.html
Atlas with Weight of World: http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/atlastitanmyth/f/081409WorldonShouders.htm