The greatest prayer of the homilist is that the Spirit will give him the words that God wants his people to hear. That is the prayer that hopefully all of us pray before we sit down to write or plan our words. Then, we do our homework, praying over and studying the words of Scripture. Then comes the scary part: this prayer makes a certain leap of faith necessary. At some point, we have to trust that the words we have are actually the answer to that prayer and then deliver them with confidence.
The same is true on a day-in, day-out level for all Christians. We should all be praying that the Spirit will help us to answer the questions that we sometimes get about our faith. Why does the Church teach some particular thing? Why do you Catholics pray to Mary and the Saints? You could probably fill out the list of questions that you have received all through your life. And each of us is actually on for answering these questions. When you get these questions, you are the homilist! You must pray that the words you use to answer the questions will be helpful to the person asking. You must do your homework, growing in your faith through adult enrichment of some kind. And then you must trust that the words you speak will actually be the words that person needs to hear.
This is the reality that Jesus is teaching his disciples in today’s Gospel. The Spirit is trustworthy. We can trust that we will have the words to answer those who question us, whether they be accusers or people genuinely interested in our faith. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say. It couldn’t be clearer.
Today we are celebrating a Mass of Mary, Help of Christians. This Mass commemorates the freeing of Pope Pius VII on May 24, 1814. Having been driven from Rome by force of arms, the Church prayed through the intercession of Mary for his deliverance, and that deliverance came to pass. Mary continues to intercede for the Church in all kinds of persecution. We can rely on her help to answer those questions of the faith and know that through her intercession, the Holy Spirit will never leave the Church without the words we should say.