I read an article today which did not use those exact words, but it was certainly asking the same question. In regard to homilies (and music) at a Catholic liturgy, the author had a desire to know, “Where’s the beef?” The writer of this article wanted to know why so many homilies lack substance. He then proceeded to ask why they had to be so long. Finally, he wanted to know what could be done to improve the way the message is delivered. I guess the word “beef” could be used in two different contexts in this article. He wanted substance (beef). He had a gripe (beef) about the delivery style and length of the homily.
I share these concerns with the author. Those who have the privilege of preaching have a responsibility to deliver a message that is well-prepared, and hopefully, composed in a spirit of prayer and reflection. Do homilies inspire, encourage, teach, and provide an opportunity for the hearer to encounter the living God in a more profound manner? How many people have walked away from the Church and stopped participating in sacred liturgies due to the ineffective and lackluster preaching styles of the clergy? It would be difficult to quantify. There are generally numerous circumstances which play into a person walking away from the practice of the faith. However, there is no doubt that poor homilies could certainly be a contributing factor to someone leaving.
As one who has the privilege of preaching at Eucharistic liturgies on an occasional basis, I recognize the difficult and challenging task of preaching effectively. The listeners come from diverse backgrounds, and formulating a message which appeals to all of the people sitting in the pews is much easier said than done. It requires extensive prayer, study, and thought to develop an inspirational and theologically sound homily which can potentially lead to a mystical experience for the one who hears. I would encourage parishioners to pray for the one who is preaching. Ask the Holy Spirit’s anointing upon the individual getting ready to break open God’s Word as well as upon all who hear the message. May each of us be touched by grace in the process!