Eight days ago Pope Francis promulgated a Homiletic Directory to reeducate the clergy of the whole world in preaching:
And on Thursday February 19 he will dedicate precisely to the art of preaching the traditional meeting at the beginning of Lent with the priests of his diocese of Rome.
Pope Francis cares deeply about the homily. In the agenda-setting document of his pontificate, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he dedicates a section of many pages to it. And with his daily homilies at Saint Martha’s House, he himself proposes a concrete model of preaching. Very efficacious from the perspective of communication, to judge by the attention that it garners.
With this, Francis is aligning himself in perfect continuity with the perennial Church. The literature of the Fathers of the Church is to a large extent made up of liturgical homilies. And the return to the biblical and patristic sources that flowed into Vatican Council II has helped a great deal in restoring to the homily its proper character as part of the liturgical action, or rather as liturgy itself, the word of God that becomes flesh, “et Verbum caro factum est.”
Below are links to the Lenten homilies of a pope who was a great homilist and liturgist, and in this sense perhaps the greatest of the past century: Benedict XVI.
The series begins with a homily for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Roman rite, selected here from the eight delivered year after year by the same pope on the same occasion, which in any case have links provided.
These are followed by three homilies and two “Angelus” for each of the five Sundays of Lent in cycle B of the liturgical lectionary, the one used this year in all the Masses of the Roman rite throughout the world.
The “Angelus” are those little homilies – sometimes genuine jewels – that both Benedict XVI and his successor Francis address to the faithful and pilgrims at noon on Sundays in Saint Peter’s Square, commenting on the readings of the day’s Mass, whenever they do not celebrate this in public.
For the 4th Sunday of Lent in cycle B, in addition to the relative “Angelus” of 2012, there is also a link to the homily delivered by Benedict XVI at that Sunday’s Mass during his journey to Angola in 2009, marked by numerous references to the local context.
The homilies for Lent of cycle B do not represent the summit of the homiletics of Benedict XVI, which is instead found in those of the Christmas and Easter season.
But the eight evocative homilies for Ash Wednesday deserve to be read on their own merit, in order to penetrate the deep meaning of Lent, which each of them explains from a different and sometimes unexpected point of view.
> HOMILY FOR ASH WEDNESDAY
February 22, 2012
2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6: 2
… The sign of the Ashes recalls the great fresco of creation which tells us that the human being is a singular unity of matter and of the Divine breath, using the image of dust moulded by God and given life by the breath breathed into the nostrils of the new creature… When he says to man, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, together with the just punishment, he also intends to announce the way to salvation, which will pass precisely through the earth, through that “dust”, that “flesh” which will be assumed by the Word…
“ANGELUS” FOR THE SUNDAYS OF LENT – YEAR B
MARCH 1, 2009
1 Peter 3:18-22
… In the desert the dramatic reality of the “kenosis”, the self-emptying of Christ who had stripped himself of the form of God, appears most vividly. He who never sinned and cannot sin submits to being tested and can therefore sympathize with our weaknesses. He lets himself be tempted by Satan, the enemy, who has been opposed to God’s saving plan for humankind from the outset. In the succinct account, angels, luminous and mysterious figures, appear almost fleetingly before this dark, tenebrous figure who dares to tempt the Lord… Angels minister to Jesus, who is certainly superior to them. This dignity of his is clearly, if discreetly, proclaimed here in the Gospel. Indeed, even in the situation of extreme poverty and humility, when he is tempted by Satan he remains the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord…
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY II OF LENT – YEAR B
March 4, 2012
… Jesus takes the three disciples with him to help them to understand that the path to attaining glory, the path of luminous love that overcomes darkness, passes through the total gift of self, passes through the folly of the Cross. And the Lord must take us with him too ever anew, at least if we are to begin to understand that this is the route to take. The Transfiguration is a moment of light in advance, which also helps us see Christ’s Passion with a gaze of faith. Indeed, it is a mystery of suffering but it is also the “blessed Passion” because – in essence – it is a mystery of God’s extraordinary love; it is the definitive exodus that opens for us the door to the freedom and newness of the Resurrection, of salvation from evil. We need it on our daily journey, so often also marked by the darkness of evil…
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY III OF LENT – YEAR B
March 19, 2006
I Corinthians 1:22-25
… To the amazement of everyone present, he responded to the request of the religious leaders who demand evidence of his authority by saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. These are mysterious words that were incomprehensible at the time; John, however, paraphrased them for his Christian readers, saying: “Actually, he was talking about the temple of his body”. His enemies were to destroy that “temple”, but after three days he would rebuild it through the Resurrection. The distressful “stumbling block” of Christ’s death was to be crowned by the triumph of his glorious Resurrection. In this Lenten season, while we are preparing to relive this central event of our salvation in the Easter triduum, we are already looking at the Crucified One, seeing in him the brightness of the Risen One
“ANGELUS” FOR SUNDAY IV OF LENT – YEAR B
March 18, 2012
2 Chronicles 36:14-23
… If the merciful love of God – who went so far as to give his only Son to redeem our life – is infinite, we have a great responsibility: each one of us, in fact, must recognize that he is sick in order to be healed. Each one must confess his sin so that God’s forgiveness, already granted on the Cross, may have an effect in his heart and in his life. St Augustine writes: “God accuses your sins: and if you also accuse them, you are united to God…. When your own deeds will begin to displease you, from that time your good works begin, as you find fault with your evil works. The confession of evil works is the beginning of good works”…
But see also:
March 22, 2009, Luanda, Angola
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY V OF LENT – YEAR B
March 29, 2009
… Here Jesus anticipates the words of the Mount of Olives, the process that must be fundamentally brought about in all our prayers: to transform, to allow grace to transform our selfish will and open it to comply with the divine will. The same sentiments surface in the passage of the Letter to the Hebrews proclaimed in the Second Reading. Prostrated by extreme anguish because of the death that was hanging over him, Jesus offers up prayers and supplications to God “with loud cries and tears”. He invokes help from the One who can set him free but always remaining abandoned in the Father’s hands. And precisely because of his filial trust in God, the author notes, he was heard, in the sense that he was raised, he received new and definitive life. The Letter to the Hebrews makes us understand that these insistent prayers, of Jesus with tears and cries, were the true act of the High Priest with which he offered himself and humanity to the Father, there by transforming the world…
This story comes from a posting by Sandro Magister in La Chiesa (La Repubblica) in mid-February.