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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:36 pm 
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Doom wrote:
Sometimes they are necessary
...
These kinds of homilies are often necessary.

The jump from "sometimes" to "often" makes me sad. Occasional topical homilies are one thing. A steady diet of them makes me sad.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:39 pm 
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theJack wrote:
Doom wrote:
Sometimes they are necessary
...
These kinds of homilies are often necessary.

The jump from "sometimes" to "often" makes me sad. Occasional topical homilies are one thing. A steady diet of them makes me sad.


If the homily provides no information that can be applied either your daily life or to understanding the proper Christian response to the issues of the day, then there is no point in having a homily at all.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:55 pm 
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theJack wrote:
Doom wrote:
Sometimes they are necessary
...
These kinds of homilies are often necessary.

The jump from "sometimes" to "often" makes me sad. Occasional topical homilies are one thing. A steady diet of them makes me sad.


Agreed. Some topical homilies are necessary, and some of the best homilies I've ever heard are those that are kind of both topical and expository. I guess you can sometimes say some topical homilies are also expository.

An overload of topical homilies is just a motivational program sprinkled with Christian terminology. Or even worse a political endorsement sprinked with Christian terminology.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:05 pm 
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A topical homily is not one that "provides ... information that can be applied either your daily life or to understanding the proper Christian response to the issues of the day," and likewise an expository homily is not one that "provides no information that can be applied either your daily life or to understanding the proper Christian response to the issues of the day". If an exposition provides no such information, it is not, by definition, exposition.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:10 pm 
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I am at a loss to see how knowing Christ better is not applicable to daily life.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:18 pm 
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Nathan wrote:
Agreed. Some topical homilies are necessary, and some of the best homilies I've ever heard are those that are kind of both topical and expository. I guess you can sometimes say some topical homilies are also expository.

In the for what it's worth column, the difference in a topical and expository homily has nothing to do with application, per Doom's (mis)characterization. The difference is simply, only, and totally where you get your subject and how you address it. In a topical homily, you take your subject to the text and pull various ideas from various parts of the text about that subject. As such, you are the organization principle yourself. Because no single topical homily can be exhaustive, you yourself must decide how you will present the subject and how you will use various portions of the text to do so. In an expository homily, you take the subject from the text and you address it in the way that the text addresses it. As such, the author of the text becomes the organizing principle, and the quality of the message is in large part directly proportional to how faithful you are to that organizing principle.

The worst homilies/sermons, in my opinion, are not topical but those that claim to be expositional but are in fact topical. My favorite example of this is the story of David's sin with Bathsheba. Normally, when it is preached in an "expository" fashion, the preacher takes the subject to be the evil of adultry, with the idea being something like if we are where we are supposed to be we won't commit the sin (because David, you know, should have been in battle with his men) or maybe more simply that we ought not commit it because these sorts of consequences. But that's silly for both a homiletical and a linguistic reason. Homiletically, your congregation doesn't need you to say, "Don't commit adultery." They either know that already or can see it in the text themselves. The need something else from you, the preacher. And that gets to the second reason, which is that linguistically, the story isn't about adultery at all or even it's consequences. It's about sin, and more specifically, it's about the progression of sin in the life on an otherwise holy man. Sin starts small and grows and grows and grows. David didn't just wake up one day and decide to murder. He came to that by making a series of bad choices all related much "smaller" sins. That's not only what the story is about, but it is an important part of the overall story of David and the still larger story of the monarchy and the still larger story of the history of Israel. That is what the congregation needs you to explain. So here our subject comes from the text and it is dealt with the way the text deals with it. And if you believe that God inspired not only the words of Scripture but the entirety of it, including the subjects it addresses and the way those subjects were addressed, then I claim, theologically, that expositional preaching is not only more theologically sound but actually more applicable to our daily lives than these absurd topical sermons we mostly get day in and day out out of some sad attempt to be "relevant."

As my homiletics professor once said, "Son, you don't make the Bible relevant. The Bible is relevant."

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An overload of topical homilies is just a motivational program sprinkled with Christian terminology. Or even worse a political endorsement sprinked with Christian terminology.

:yes: :amen:

And don't forget the likely result of the personal hobby horse of the "preacher" in question.

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Last edited by theJack on Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:19 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I am at a loss to see how knowing Christ better is not applicable to daily life.

I need a like button for posts like this.

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"Things tend, in fact, to go wrong; part of the blame lies on the teachers of philosophy, who today teach us how to argue instead of how to live, part on their students, who come to the teachers in the first place with a view to developing not their character but their intellect. The result has been the transformation of philosophy, the study of wisdom, into philology, the study of words." - Lucius Seneca, Letters from a Stoic.


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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 9:02 pm 
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Catholic exegetical tradition (not dogmatic, just practical) recognizes four senses of Scripture (at least; these are the four most frequently encountered):

    115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

    116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."

    117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

    1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of Christian Baptism.

    2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction".

    3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.
The problem with focusing too heavily on practical applications is that the exegesis tends to collapse into the moral sense only, with maybe a hint of the anagogical sense too if the homily is talking about hope.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:09 pm 
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Bayswater wrote:
Are you, like me, sometimes confused with the Sunday readings and hope, in vain, for the celebrant to make them clear and relevant to daily life? and sometimes it is difficult to understand what he's saying at all if he is a foreigner. Any suggestions?


In most third-world countries, good English is a sign of social status and prestige. As a general principle, English medium schools are more expensive than regional language medium schools and the poor may not be able to afford them.
English teachers may not be of the highest quality either.
We can learn some English from exposure from the media, yet the poor may not own television.

Your priests have made great sacrifices, leaving behind their loved ones; please pray for them.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 9:28 am 
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theJack wrote:
They either know that already or can see it in the text themselves. The need something else from you, the preacher. And that gets to the second reason, which is that linguistically, the story isn't about adultery at all or even it's consequences. ."



What do you mean when you say linguistically?

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 1:46 pm 
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I mean looking at the text from strictly grammatical and structural perspectives -- looking at it as a document attempting to convey an idea using (written) words. Though I actually should have said that the second reason is a literary one. Linguistic concerns and tools are at the center of a good literary analysis, but they aren't identical fields. The subject of the story and the related story arc is not David's adultery, and so the point of the story isn't something as banal as "don't commit adultery." That's missing what the story is actually about.

I could give easily dozens (literally dozens, as in sets of twelve examples multiple times literally!) of this type of "guessegesis." Take the story of Gideon and the fleece. So often I hear that the point of the story is that we should "lay out our fleece" when seeking God's will, as if the means by which God demonstrates His will is what the story is about. How about Jesus calming the sea? Preachers tell us it is about Jesus calming the storms of our life. The genealogies of Adam, particularly given the dates associated with them, suddenly become about the age of the earth and proof the evilushun is rong. Moses parted the Red Sea is about God making a way through all the troubles of your life. The newly converted Samarian Christians receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues when Peter lays his hands on them is somehow about the true and necessary evidence of salvation.

We do this almost all the time. It's easiest to make the mistake with narrative (given the fact that we either use them as illustrations of some theological point we've already come to in a topical homily), but we make them in all other types of literature, too -- OT legal literature, poetry and wisdom, epistle . . . all of it. Very few people stop and ask themselves what the story as it is written is actually about. Instead, they already have their topic, their subject, in mind; or else they pick one particularly element of the story and claim that is what the story itself is about. Boring and wrong, but it's what most preachers do.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:49 pm 
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theJack wrote:
I mean looking at the text from strictly grammatical and structural perspectives -- looking at it as a document attempting to convey an idea using (written) words. Though I actually should have said that the second reason is a literary one. Linguistic concerns and tools are at the center of a good literary analysis, but they aren't identical fields. The subject of the story and the related story arc is not David's adultery, and so the point of the story isn't something as banal as "don't commit adultery." That's missing what the story is actually about.

I could give easily dozens (literally dozens, as in sets of twelve examples multiple times literally!) of this type of "guessegesis." Take the story of Gideon and the fleece. So often I hear that the point of the story is that we should "lay out our fleece" when seeking God's will, as if the means by which God demonstrates His will is what the story is about. How about Jesus calming the sea? Preachers tell us it is about Jesus calming the storms of our life. The genealogies of Adam, particularly given the dates associated with them, suddenly become about the age of the earth and proof the evilushun is rong. Moses parted the Red Sea is about God making a way through all the troubles of your life. The newly converted Samarian Christians receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues when Peter lays his hands on them is somehow about the true and necessary evidence of salvation.

We do this almost all the time. It's easiest to make the mistake with narrative (given the fact that we either use them as illustrations of some theological point we've already come to in a topical homily), but we make them in all other types of literature, too -- OT legal literature, poetry and wisdom, epistle . . . all of it. Very few people stop and ask themselves what the story as it is written is actually about. Instead, they already have their topic, their subject, in mind; or else they pick one particularly element of the story and claim that is what the story itself is about. Boring and wrong, but it's what most preachers do.


Okay that makes sense. I'll leave it to smarter people to articulate how this differs from Catholic exegesis, and what can be learned from either method.

BTW I would be curious to hear your perspective on Pope Benedicts encyclical, Spe Salvi. Also if you ever read his book, Jesus of Nazareth. I think you might like it, if not to help in your own ministry, then at least to see a thorough treatment of the Gospels and exegesis from a Catholic perspective, from a truly impressive Catholic mind.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 5:17 pm 
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You'd have to ask a Catholic exegete how it relates, but from my side of the aisle, I don't see a lot of differences. Or, at least, the differences don't seem insurmountable. What Obi calls senses I think of in terms of corollaries. I, for instance, would claim that there is only one interpretation of the text. But given that interpretation, there are a great many things that can follow depending on what questions we ask about what that interpretation means to this or compared to that. So if it is true that God inspired the Scriptures and that He has a plan and that He has found it fitting to reveal Himself in certain patterns (all of which are defensible assumptions), then once you have established the proper interpretation (the literal sense), then we should be surprised if we don't find spiritual corollaries when we compare what happened previously with what happens later. I've read a great many non-Catholic theologians who use the term "biblical theology" to speak exactly of this -- it's the tracing of the development of theology within the Scriptures themselves, such that what happens later builds upon what happens earlier and, without changing the meaning of the earlier text, illuminates it further. Obi's "more profound" allegorical sense is to me far less profound but likewise not unexpected. If I can meditate on any aspect of creation and allow it to bring to mind some biblical passage or something Christ has done, how much more should I not expect to be able to do the same with Scripture itself? So I'm not surprised when Jesus compares His glorification on the cross with Moses' lifted up serpent, and I'm not surprised to hear exegetes of all denominations (Catholics included) see Christ in Joseph. And given all this, how could the literal sense of Scripture not give us insight into the way the world actually works and so how we should conduct ourselves in it?

Having said all that, my own idea is to strongly emphasize that none of these corollaries, not even the progress of theology, is found in these texts themselves, and I think we do the text itself a great disservice when we claim that they are. Proper distinctions are important here as well as everywhere else. I also think we do a great disservice when we preach one of the corollaries rather than the text itself, as it is written. For me, I say, Preach the Word, in season and out. Preach the only interpretation, the literal sense. Having so preached it, if you want to go further and draw appropriate parallels with other passages, then do so. But never, never, never, never do so at the expense of the text as it is written. For whatever the relationship between Moses' serpent and Jesus' cross, the fact remains that the story of Moses' serpent is itself divine revelation and should be preached as such. To suggest or imply that the story in Numbers has no meaning in and of itself, or that its meaning is somehow incomplete, is, in my assessment, to downplay the importance of what God thought important enough to reveal in the manner in which He revealed it. And who am I to judge Him and His work?

As I said, I think that a lot of this would be more or less consistent with Catholic thought. Perhaps some of the spirit would be rejected and perhaps all of it nuanced differently. But I don't think that the practice of delivering the homily itself based on these sorts of principles would necessarily result in terribly different messages regardless of whether one is Catholic or not. Both exegetes believe in the importance of the literal sense and that it can, should, and must be extended to show how it fits with and is itself illuminated by the rest of God's Counsel.

Other than that, I've not read that encyclical, but thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into it. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 7:02 pm 
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It's not my profound sense--it's the Catechism's :)

I am not sure how pointing out that Jesus was lifted on the Cross as a parallel to the serpent's being lifted up in the desert is doing an injustice to the text. Whether or not the author of the text intended that parallel at the time it was written is not relevant because we have it, on the words of Scripture, that the parallel is real and intended.

It seems to me that being too tied to the literal meaning of the text is missing out on much of what it has to offer us--what it is intended to offer us.

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 Post subject: Re: Readings at Mass on Sunday
PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 1:07 am 
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Bayswater wrote:
Are you, like me, sometimes confused with the Sunday readings and hope, in vain, for the celebrant to make them clear and relevant to daily life? and sometimes it is difficult to understand what he's saying at all if he is a foreigner. Any suggestions?



I really don't except much out of the homilies anymore, only with certain priests do I expect something substantial, and these certain priests are no longer around me anymore. So, in my situation, I just focus on receiving sacraments and praying the Mass. These days I turn to Catholic media to learn things or get "inspired," e.g. what I can find on YouTube or in a good book or article. And I put "inspired" in quotes because I don't really experience it in the way others do.

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