As you may know from my last post, I decided to sing parts of the Exsultet in my homilies last weekend. That was a controversial decision for me; since I was thinking better of it after I had made the decision. One of the parish staff members was good enough to share her own reaction to the homily, which I appreciated, and I responded to her by giving what amounted to my operative theology of homiletics. Here's the gist of it:
1. The Exsultet is intended to be sung. If we're going to use the Liturgy to interpret the Liturgy (which is an important homiletic technique), we have to use the interpreting pieces as they were intended. If I decided NOT to sing the Exsultet pieces, I would not have used the Exsultet at all, and then it would have been a different homily.
2. I worried about singing it all the way up to the Ambo, but as I centered myself in prayer during the silent spaces of the Liturgy of the Word, God's answer was that I prayed for a homily that would say what God wanted me to say, and that I needed to trust that what was on that page was the answer to my prayer. It's an act of faith, but I do have to trust that given my own prayer and preparation, the word that is given is what someone needs to hear.
Given all that, I would probably do it again the way I did, because it conveyed the message I felt like I was being led to convey, and I have to be faithful to that. BUT, I never would sing parts of my homily, or even all of it (God forbid — and yes, I've heard that done — ick!) on a regular basis. The homily is never about me. Yes, it uses me and my life and my words, but always through the action of the Holy Spirit — more or less, according to my own faithfulness. Preaching is always risky. If it isn't, then it's not done faithfully.
Now a word about getting solid, honest evalutations of one's preaching. If you're lucky enough to have a parishioner or staff member who is able to do that honestly, as I do, thank God for it! People who do that for you are contributing to your homiletic ministry in ways that maybe even the two of you don't fully appreciate. That kind of feedback is so much a part of the way the Holy Spirit writes our homilies, and it simply isn't appropriate to do without it.