Catholic life is different than some others that we come to know about from our friends and acquaintances. Catholics who participate in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist [Mass] every Sunday know the pattern well. There are four very specific references to Sacred Scripture. Three proclamations (Old Testament, Letters from New Testament and Gospel) with one prayer, usually of praise or petition (Responsorial Psalm). These Scripture readings are organized in such a way to give the audience a clear idea of the general "theme" for the Sunday. The Catholic Church has this part of Sunday Eucharist organized in three parts, A, B, C, one for each year of a three year cycle. The priests who lead the Liturgy are expected to give inspirational reflections concerning the contents of the Bible Readings that make up the Scriptural teachings of the week. These reflections/meditations are called Homilies.
Catholic priests do not get to choose the bible passages that they will "preach" about on any given Sunday. Catholic priests are also further required to provide the congregation of the faithful with reflections/meditations on scripture readings taken from the Church's organized Scripture schedule during Masses celebrated on week-days. Six days a week, Monday through Saturday. If you have time, you might want to make daily Mass a habit.
This makes the question in the title an important one. Why? Because the Catholic who pays attention to the Homily will learn more about the Scripture than just the transitory lessons being communicated by any given priest. True that some Sundays we walk away saying to our pew companion, "He did well today. You have to give it to him. He's usually pretty good, but today he was really on his game." That is indicative that the parishioners really do hear more than just what is being said about a given set of Bible Readings. What is it that we hear? Is it that important? Yes, it is important. here's why.
We all have channels through which we connect to people. In the natural world, these are connected to our personality, our character, our culture, our background, our family customs, our education, our talents and who knows how many more things. We have perhaps two or three friends whom we consider to be true friends, even if not the 21st century TFL [True Friend for Life]. With each one of these people we are happy for different reasons. Each one evokes slightly different reactions and feelings in us. We love each one equally, or about equally, but each one for a slightly different reason. This is true of our relationship with God. I relate to God in a different way than you do. Father "X" relates to God differently than Father "Y" does. That, I don't think can be denied.
A reality of Catholic life is that Catholics, generally, don't follow a particular priest to the point of discipleship. Catholics, generally, get more attached to the Mass schedule than to the priest. So, over a year's time, Catholics will hear the homily from a given priest about 15 to 18 times, on average. That is not an enormous number, but it is enough to get to know what the "nut" of the reflection, the Homily, will be every time. This, in general Catholic Theological terms, is what is called the priest's Spirituality. It is his way of relating to God and to the the higher supernatural realities of life. Ask yourself, "Do I recognize the spirituality of Father 'X' when he is delivering the Homily?" If you haven't gotten to that point yet in your Sunday Mass participation, maybe you can start analyzing things that you hear a little more closely.
I now allow myself to give you an example. At the church where I go more often, there is one priest who has a very recognizable spirituality. His relationship with God and God's Mother Mary is focused on the Kingdom of God being HOME. I have been listening to this priest for more than one year now. I have come to feel comfortable with his spirituality. It is a clear, guiding focus in his relationship to God and Mary. To those in the pews who hear him over the time of those 15 homilies I mentioned will also hear a suggestion of how to relate to God and Mary. The listeners will be enriched by understandings of God and Mary that go beyond the sound of the words. They will hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit in their Hearts and Souls. It could very well be that his HOME relationship with God and Mary will resonate with the listeners and enrich their prayer experience. It will also increase their respect for a priest whom they now are convinced has a solid personal prayer life.
Those of us who live in parishes where we get to listen to two or three priests on a regular basis are blessed with the possibility that there will be at least one who will have an easily detectable spirituality like the one I mentioned above. Sadly, there are too few priests who communicate as honestly as the one I am mentioning here.
It is not my intention to denigrate anyone. It is my intention here to encourage all Catholics within the sound of my voice to work on their preparation time before participating in the Sunday Mass. Read the Scripture for the day before going to the church. How do you feel about the readings? What do you think is the key for you on this day? Then, when you get to Church and the Liturgy of the Word unfolds, don't just listen. Embrace it. Remember how you felt at home and compare what you feel NOW. Compare your understanding of the "theme" and what the priest's understanding is.
Finally, if you are reading this, it means that you can ponder the readings for the Sunday ahead right here at www.Parishworld.net If you are subscribed, you get the email every Friday [or is it Saturday] so you can always prepare to participate deeply in the Mass.
Remember that you heard this from me. I am sure that following this advice will make you so happy that you will have no temptation to cry at my funeral.