by Leon Suprenant
When it comes to training future deacons, we’re always looking for ways to give them ample training and practice in the art of homiletics, or preaching, in the liturgy. In discussing “best practices” with other deacons, I recently heard a story that’s instructive for all of us.
As part of the homiletics training in another diocese, the deacon candidates are given a homily “assignment” at the close of the day. The men prepare the practice homily at night and deliver it in class the next morning.
On one occasion, a candidate who had never preached a practice homily was given his assignment. The poor guy was very nervous and stayed up all night. Yet, in the morning, he didn’t have a homily. He got up and looked out at his classmates and asked, “Do you know what I’m going to say?”
All of them shook their heads “no.” The deacon candidate sheepishly said, “Neither do I.” And he sat down.
The priest in charge of the cohort, or class, was not happy. He warned the candidate, “I’ll give you another chance tomorrow, and you’d better have a homily.”
Again the candidate stayed up all night, and still he couldn’t come up with a homily. The next morning, he stood up and asked, “Do you know what I am going to say?” The students fearfully nodded their heads “yes.” “Then there’s no reason to tell you,” he said. And he sat down.
Now the priest was angry. He confronted the candidate and said, “I’ll give you one last chance. If you don’t have a homily tomorrow, you’ll be asked to leave the program.”
The next day the candidate stood up and asked, “Do you know what I am going to say?” Half of the students fearfully nodded “yes” and the other half cluelessly shook their heads “no.” The student preacher then announced, “Those who know, tell those who don’t know.” And he sat down.
The priest smiled, walked over to the candidate, put his arm over his shoulders, and said, “‘Those who know, tell those who don’t know.’ Today, the Gospel has been proclaimed.”
As ordained ministers, deacons and priests give homilies at Mass. They should fulfill this sacred obligation with enthusiasm, fervor and skill.
Yet all Catholics are called to preach, to have a living relationship with the Lord and bear witness to him in the classroom of life.
Many find this task daunting and want to leave the work of evangelization to the clergy. Perhaps others may not yet know the Lord well enough themselves and don’t feel equipped to evangelize others.
But let’s keep it simple this Easter season. If you know Jesus, go tell somebody else about him. If you don’t know Jesus, seek out someone who does. You’ll be glad you did.