Okay, yes, Aristotle was a pagan — but you can't blame the guy for living centuries before the birth of Christ. You can, however, give him credit for laying out the basics of a good speech. Basics, Father Damian Ference argues, that every good priest ought to keep in mind — and in practice.
Aristotle was a pagan. He died more than three hundred years before the Incarnation, and so Dante put him in the first circle of hell along with his great teacher, Plato. Yet St. Thomas Aquinas consistently referred to Aristotle as “The Philosopher,” and the Catholic intellectual tradition is steeped in Aristotelian thought. Although Aristotle never once heard a homily, he offers an excellent study of public speaking in his treatise titled Rhetoric, which can tell us a lot about what makes a homily good, or not so good.
According to Aristotle, a good speech – and in our case, a good homily – is built on three pillars:ethos, pathos and logos. So let’s examine each pillar to see what Aristotle is up to.
ETHOS: This first pillar deals with the credibility and the character of the preacher. Do you believe what the preacher is saying? Is he trustworthy? Is he worth listening to? Does he practice what he preaches? Does he have integrity and virtuous character? In other words, is he holy?...
Father Steve Grunow offered this homily at Mass today, cutting to the heart of this Sunday's challenging scriptural readings to help us realize that the true spiritual life is not a mere "affirmation of our desires." They are far too small. Vocation is a greater reality calling us beyond our perceived riches into the happiness of a life lived in imitation of Christ.
Our scripture readings for today commence with a selection from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom.
The content of the Book of Wisdom represents Israel thinking through the implications of its faith in the God of Israel. The author of this book begs questions and answers as he thinks through what it means to believe in God and to live in a unique culture that accepts that God is at the center of life and the activities of culture.
Today, the author ruminates on the question of what is most needed or important in life- is it wealth, security, power? No. Is it fame or honors? No.
What is needed most in life is wisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom is discernment, particularly a discernment of God's will and purposes for one's life. With this discernment comes clarity, a clarity that is not just about practical matters, but about what is most important.
Without wisdom we settle for the satisfaction of nothing more than immediate need or we fixate on the ephemeral, mistaking ancillary goods for the most important Good that is God.
Our second scripture is an excerpt from the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews.
The Letter to the Hebrews is a curious and mysterious text. It is not so much a letter as it is a kind of theological essay and it represents, like the Book of Wisdom, a thinking through of what of the implications of Christian faith and belief.
Whereas the Book of Wisdom examines the unique way of life that is the Israel of the Old Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews examines the unique way of life that is the new Israel, the Church of the New Testament.
Remember, the Church is not just a religious discussion club, non-for-profit charity, or merely an extension of your family of ethnic identity. The Church is the new Israel- it is a people called forth by God in Christ from all the nations that is meant to display to the world through its unique way of life that God exists, God matters, and that humanity is invited into relationship with God through Christ.
This is what the Church is. This is who we are...
How can the Church know what to do if the people of God forget who they are? Today, Father Steve Grunow offers his homily inspired by the scripture for today’s Mass from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy.
There is an interesting correlation that occurs throughout the scriptures between knowing and doing. The Bible is impatient with thoughtless activism or abstract idealism. Instead, what is proposed is that once one knows who they are, then they know what it is precisely that they are supposed to do.
Therefore throughout the scriptures there are repeated reminders to Israel concerning who they are—you are the Lord’s people. The Lord has chosen you. The Lord has set you apart. You are the Lord’s beloved. Once you were no people and now you are God’s people…
These reminders about who Israel is are most often accompanied by the invitation to Israel to do something about the fact, the truth, of their identity. Knowing who they are means they also know what they are to do.
Today’s first scripture from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy demonstrates this correlation very well. Moses tells the people who they are, and indicates that relationship of that identity to the Law that God gives to his people—and then he makes it clear, knowing who you are you will know what to do.