Preaching at Mass is the “best opportunity” most bishops, priests and deacons have on a regular basis to facilitate an encounter with Jesus, so it’s critical for preachers to make the most of every homily, said Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. He made the comments in a new pastoral letter to clergy of the Archdiocese of Detroit titled “The Preacher – Servant of the Word of God.” It is his third pastoral as archbishop of Detroit, following 2012’s “Forward in Hope to Share Christ,” on pastoral plans and priorities of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and 2013’s “In Union With Christ’s Dying and Rising,” on Catholic funeral rites. In the new letter, the archbishop draws heavily on themes from Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” which he noted has been called the “playbook for the church” for the new evangelization. In it, he said, the pope “treats in no small detail the homily as the single moment in which most of us as bishops, priests and deacons have the best opportunity to be God’s instruments on a daily, or at least weekly, basis and help our brothers and sisters to have an encounter with God.” Archbishop Vigneron said the coldness and indifference of many in the pews necessitates a renewed emphasis on the importance of preaching, especially given that many who attend Sunday Mass are otherwise disengaged from their faith. “Despite the fact many people in the pews would say that they’ve heard ad nauseam ‘God loves you,’ many of them simply do not know it – and will readily admit as much if asked,” he said. “And this love, knowledge of this love, an encounter with this love, is what changes lives. … Until a person knows this, the faith simply looks like rules and regulations.” The archbishop noted many or even most church-going Catholics have been “sacramentalized but not evangelized,” and preaching without knowing the audience’s needs is “like trying to plant seeds in concrete – nothing will grow.”
You can read the full text of the letter here.