Homily tedious or uplifting?

The pilgrims have packed up and the pope has gone home. The World Youth Day 2008 celebrations have finished and Sydney returns to normal.

I followed it all through the media, shared the noise from the late night partying of German Pilgrims billeted next door and visited the city while some of the events were on. You would be a great cynic indeed not to see the joy in the event.

My cynicism was finally driven away by listening to the Pope’s thought-provoking homilies. His speeches to the crowds were quite inspiring. But what is a homily? It is a word that conjures up ambiguous responses because of its two very opposite meanings:

  • a talk on a religious subject, intended to be spiritually uplifting rather than giving doctrinal instruction

  • a tedious moralising talk

It is possible to see that although the meanings may be quite polarised there is a very fine line between the two in practical terms. But Benedict XVI’s homilies were uplifting and far from tedious. His language was simple and very powerful. His description of the meaning of life, for instance:

It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

This is communication that we all should aspire to.