Homilette for Thursday, February 5, 2009

Memorial of St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

(Hebrews 12:18-19.21-24; Mark 6:7-13)

In workshops on preaching the late Ken Untener, bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, used to say that the homily should last no more than four minutes. Untener reasoned that mass in a Catholic church has much that speaks to the people besides the homily. The readings themselves are usually self-evident. The stained glass windows tell their stories. The hymns relate a message. And the prayers convey much meaning.

The Letter to the Hebrews today refers to the Christian liturgical assembly – what we call the mass. Like Bishop Untener’s description of mass in a Catholic church, it speaks of a setting of peace and light. It is where we meet Christ in a unique way. The mass differs dramatically from the Hebrew assembly in the desert. That was a terrifying experience because God had to soften and shape an unruly lot so that they may live more like His people.

Still, sometimes we grow weary of the mass and feel tempted to skip it for a Sunday. If the irregularity becomes a norm, we would be making a mistake worse than riding in a car with faulty brakes. It is not that everyone in church is a saint, but we come here to be reminded that sainthood is our destiny. Even more importantly, here we listen to the Word of God and receive the nourishment of Christ’s body so that we may act as we are destined to become.