Q. 1. How does the Catholic Church define the word "homily?"
A. 1. The homily is a form of preaching which was in use from the very beginning of Christianity. It is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Since Origen's time homily has meant, and still means, a commentary, without formal introduction, division, or conclusion, on some part of Sacred Scripture, the aim being to explain the literal, and evolve the spiritual, meaning of the Sacred Text.
The Code of Canon Law # 767 §1. states, "Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year."
The Guideline given by the Catholic Church is found in "The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)" where it states:
"29. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, all must listen with reverence to the readings from God's word, for they make up an element of greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God's word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the Homily, as part of the liturgical action."
"65. The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners."
"66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the Homily may even be given by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate. There is to be a Homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation at all Masses that are celebrated with the participation of a congregation; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. It is recommended on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent and the Easter Season, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers. After the Homily a brief period of silence is appropriately observed."