Several weeks ago I was invited to give a homily (i.e. a sermon/reflection) for Lent III, which is next Sunday. As of yesterday I hadn't yet been able to write one word of it.
Think of it as a bad case of writer's block, except it only applied in this one case. I've written a dozen blog posts since Ash Wednesday alone, so it's not as though I didn't have a command of words elsewhere. The lessons for Lent III are richly evocative, so that wasn't it, either.
When I'm about to do a new thing, especially a thing that's bound to make a tremendous impression on people, anything short of excellence and complete satisfaction on my part will send me fleeing in the other direction. And even though I've written and given a number of homilies in the past, I've never stood up as "The Preacher" for Sunday liturgy. It's a new thing, and it scares me.
The other day I talked about how I spend one or two hours writing per day--and that's on the ample side. Yesterday I gave this homily no fewer than five hours of feverish attention. Why?
A lot hangs on this, in my mind. It's a classic case of first-impression-making. If I do well, the parish as a whole gains not only a thoughtful homily, but a set of implicit expectations about who I might be and what I might do at the service of the parish in the future. If I don't do well, the parish will wish they had heard the vicar instead, and--more importantly--the leadership might see my future and vocational path in a different light.
Giving this homily is about so much more than giving a homily. It's a moment in which I'll have an opportunity to prove wrong every single person who ever told/taught me that women in general--and I in particular--weren't meant (or designed!) to be pastoral leaders (and Jesus said so, forever and ever, and let the church say "Amen").
That's a lot of disvaluing to overcome in ten minutes. For the record, neither the vicar nor anyone else has said to me that my vocation is at stake in this homily--they have been generous in trusting that I will do well (I wouldn't have been asked otherwise). I trust that they trust me. Nevertheless, I can't help feeling that my vocation and the integrity and valuing of women on the whole are wrapped up in this small opportunity I have to stand up before a hundred people and speak with authority.
Patriarchy and Hegemony are powerful demons in the Christian tradition, and every battle waged against them matters. My homily is ready. May I speak this Sunday with the authority of the one I call Lord, that they may be powerfully silenced in my presence.