One thing I can’t do anymore is write very good homilies. Since the stroke I think very much in straight lines and the various thoughts of homilies and the ideas they suggest, simply escape me.
So every week I check out my writings from the years in our cycle. When I left Stratford a wonderful parishioner gave me a copy of everything I’d ever written since the time I was at the cathedral.
I look up the various writings of what I’d said in Year A, B or C and this becomes the skeleton of my homily for that Sunday. Simple. I used to write a section every week in the parish newsletter on the second reading and this was what was saved and given back to me as a record.
The homily was on the gospel and the first reading but the writings are on the second reading. The people are getting a good number of homilies on St Paul and other letter writers now. The notes in the bulletins stimulate many interesting thoughts which I would otherwise have forgotten.
One writing on St Paul set me off on a pattern of thought that dated back to the mid-1990s.
There was a questionnaire sent out to every parishioner as I remember it. I can see it now, it was buff coloured! In a moment of rashness I opted to collate all the findings. That’s why I remember the colour—there were thousands of them.
The image was this: only in those parishes where people had a good experience of liturgy did the people say that the parish had a good sense of community. It wasn’t necessarily liturgy with all the answers but liturgy where everyone gave of their best. Only then would the people say that they could trust each other and begin to feel comfortable in each other’s company.
This came as a bit of a shock to me then. They would feel a deep sense of trust only if there was deep sense of liturgy.
The next thing that happened was a powerful outreach to the ‘widows and orphans’ in the community but only in those communities that had good liturgy and a deep knowledge and understanding of each other.
I was thinking about the letter of James because it was one of the readings for a Sunday and I was doubly reminded of it when we had Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians on weekdays. It means as much now as it did then…
‘May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you. May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you’ 1Thessalonians 3:11.