WASHINGTON – "My dad used to say, 'I know what happened 2,000 years ago. I need to know how to live my life today.'"
These words, from Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, get to the heart of a new document on preaching approved by the U.S. bishops Nov. 13.
The document, Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily, encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people's daily lives.
Carlson shepherded the writing of the document. "Our people hunger for better preaching, preaching that would help them rediscover their faith," he said.
The document says, "The homily is intended to establish a 'dialogue' between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer," it said.
"Many Catholics, for a variety of reasons, seem either indifferent to or disaffected with the Church and her teaching."
Today's homilists must realize they are preaching to culturally diverse congregations that are deeply affected by a secular society and many of whom are inadequately catechized, the document says.
"Virtually every homily preached during the liturgy should make some connection between the Scriptures just heard and the Eucharist about to be celebrated," it says.
Before preaching, homilists should wrestle with challenging aspects of the biblical Word and how it can be connected with the ordinary experiences of their congregation, it says.
Catholics in the pews, Carlson said, deliver a mixed verdict on the effectiveness of their own preachers.
"There are places where the preaching is considered excellent," he said, and there are others who "wish their homilies were not presented better necessarily, but (that) they were more in touch with their lives."