The Price of Preaching the Gospel

The following letter was sent to Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop Harry Flynn in reference to a recently preached homily by Fr. Leo Tibesar. Preaching on Lk 18:9-14 (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time) in which the boastful Pharisee prays, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity,” Fr. Tibesar preached a thoughtful homily that used a common preacher’s technique of bringing Jesus’ story into the present day.

Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
226 Summit Avenue
Saint Paul , MN 55102
(651) 291-4400

Your Excellency,

I am writing in reference to a recent and well-publicized homily by a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Fr. Leo Tibesar. While you may be in receipt of many messages criticizing Fr. Tibesar for the homily he preached on October 28, 2007, I am writing to express my support for Fr. Tibesar and his very thoughtful and challenging homily. As you may know, both the text of this homily, as well as an audio file of it, are readily available on the Internet. I have read the homily and listened to it.

The homilist is called each and every time he stands before God’s People to break open the Gospel by helping them understand not only what the words of Jesus meant in His day, but more importantly what these words mean in our own time. If a homilist fails to connect the past with the present, if he fails to help others experience both the comfort and the challenge of the words Jesus proclaimed, then the Gospel is merely a collection of words of a by-gone era, without life or the power to save. A homilist who is worthy of the name is not afraid to raise a few eyebrows, challenge a few assumptions, and even remind us that, as the Magnificat tells us, the Lord “casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.” Fr. Tibesar’s homily is a timely reminder that all of us — regardless of politics or position or presumption of moral certitude — are in need of that salvation to which we have no claim, yet which the Lord bestows to those who come to Him with an open and humble heart.

I found Fr. Tibesar’s homily thoughtful, challenging, and inspiring. I pray that you will support him in his work and ministry.

Wishing you every blessing for a holy Advent season, sincerely,

Timothy J. MacGeorge
Washington, DC

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