At Mass, both parishioners and clergy find sermons difficult. In the Peace Column, a journalist gives us his opinion on why this is so often the case.
Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel: "We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and both, they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad this is the case"(#135).
Without need of hearing these words of the pope, we know sermons are a problem for priests and people. Not rarely do we have the congregation unhappy with sermons. Infrequently, but we do have parishioners standing up during the sermon and objecting, and those who walk out. On the other hand, we have priests who have a difficult time preparing and delivering sermons.
There are two reasons that a sermon is difficult. Dissatisfaction comes when they are more or less subjective: without any central point being made, but this is not the kind that prompts a parishioner to stand up doing the sermon. Invariably when a sermon enters politics or treats some sensitive pending social issue we have differences of opinion.
Another reason is when the sermons are extremely long. Even when the sermon is good, the parishioners find it difficult. When it doesn't have a main point, and overly long this magnifies the problem and makes it difficult to endure. They don't leave but they will in the future not go to that Mass.
He admits that priests know what is required in a good sermon. However, to give a sermon that helps the parishioner to grow spiritually is not easy. Working as a reporter for the last 25 years, he has not met any priests who found sermons easy. Sermons are more important than the administration of the parish, and they know it is an important duty.
What is required to give a good sermon he asks? He wants the believer to pray for their priests, help them be better preachers. He would like to see them get feed back from the people, not hurting their feelings and done diplomatically. He would like priests to read carefully the section on sermons in Joy of the Gospel and concludes the article with #137.
"The homily has special importance due to its Eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people, which leads up to sacramental communion. The homily takes up once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people. The preacher must know the heart of his community, in order to realize where its desire for God is alive and ardent, as well as where that dialogue, once loving, has been thwarted and is now barren."