Longing to see your face : preaching in a secular age  
Book Reviews

Longing to See Your Face:
Preaching in a Secular Age

by Thomas J. Scirghi, S.J.


Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight. PhD


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Although the book is written for someone giving a homily, it is enormously beneficial for all to read especially those who teach. Preaching to me has a threefold purpose: for the person preaching, for the continued holiness of the listener or for the continued holiness of the community.  Scirghi investigates all those avenues. On p.13 he states: “Preaching should move the listeners so that, as the psalmist says, “O that today you would listen to his voice!/ Do not harden your Hearts”(Ps 95:7-8). He further states that the purpose of preaching is to ‘name grace’ to figure out God’s presence here and now. Or on the road to Emmaus where Christ ‘opened the Scriptures to them’.  The power of the opened word jumps out to us and helps us to realize that power in understanding the depth and breadth of that opening. It is important to each one of us and to the community. We are companions of the Lord on this journey and listen to the word as well as add to the word by our attention and recognition of the word.

In Chapter two Scirghi points out that when God speaks something happens! We sometimes are afraid of what God speaks to us as it demands change and adherence to the words of the homilist. Our own words do matter and we are called in a similar way as Martin Luther King- to make changes in our lives and more importantly in the society in which we live.  Chapter three gives us some insight into preaching ‘Catholic’. Today even more than ever we need to incorporate all the cultures, ethnicities and arts so that we can permeate the entire world with the work of Christ.  It calls for a sacramental imagination so that all of creation reflects the presence of God in all His glory. In my own class, I have quite a few music majors so instead of opening the class with a formal prayer, one of the students picks a piece of music that can be prayed as a prayer reflecting the goodness of all creation.  Chapter after chapter calls for the realization of our humanness as the crucial aspect of good preaching.  What we say mirrors the relationship we make with others and with our God.  It is really what we have to offer.

One of the best things about planning the homily is the amount of resources available for good preaching. There is a plentitude of material online and in books that we can utilize to help our work become more effective and affective.   We pray the Scriptures day after day in preparation for the preaching. The message moves from the preacher to the listener.  Each time we preach we need to call on the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the people we are giving the homily to and allow them to hear what he knows what they need to hear.  This is really a meaningful book for all who understand the importance of ‘the other’.  There is about 40 minutes a week that people give themselves time to pray.  The preaching is important for the health of the soul and body and the entire community of believers.