“In the Gospel reading, Christ teaches us to love each other. Do you love your neighbor? Love one another. Help those in need. Open your heart. Be the best father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, you can be. That is the true meaning of being a Christian.”
Heard that before? I have. A million times. I once attended a fairly conservative Protestant service and a typical Catholic Mass on the same day. Leaving the rest aside, the difference in the sermons were stark. First, the Protestant sermon was entirely about Christ. The Catholic sermon used the reading to jump off into social justice. I’m not saying social justice isn’t vitally important but would a little talk about the divine hurt? Second, the Protestant sermon didn’t stoop to the lowest common denominator. It challenged listeners. Granted, it was a very famous Protestant preacher who probably spent weeks preparing the sermon. I’ve heard banal Protestant sermons before. But the Catholic Church is so rich in theological insights spanning millennia that sermons should never be a recycled litany of platitudes. Maybe it’s because priests have to do it every day. Or maybe because not every priest can be a great preacher. But I suspect it may be because some priests mistakenly believe people don’t want, don’t need, or can’t handle more.
Many years ago, we got a new priest. His first homily was on the Eucharist. No platitudes. No social justice. A homily that would either deeply offend a Protestant or convert him. Not because it was judgmental or intended to convert but because it was so deep in meaning and conveyed his own love for Christ in the Eucharist… When he concluded, everyone looked around at each other. We were blown away. Some may say that the homily shouldn’t be the focus of the Mass. But what he had to say resonated throughout the Mass and beyond. It’s as if we were really at Mass for the first time. Dare I say, that sermon saved souls that day.