Msgr. Francis Weber, the noted historian and archdiocesan archivist emeritus, has borrowed a phrase from Shakespeare as the theme for his latest endeavor — “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
In “Characters from the Gospels,” he has condensed the stories of 36 Biblical figures into short, pithy sermons — ones he has used through his 50 years of preaching. Relying on the three-part maxim he learned from the talented preacher and rector at St. John’s Seminary, Vincentian Father William Barr, he modeled his own style and technique on the rector’s teaching. The three requisite principles were: do the preparation, stress quality and do not speak longer than 12 minutes. A good preacher should point out the spiritual truth that the Gospels reveal.
Following those principles, Msgr. Weber presents a plethora of biblical characters in a range from Mary, Mother of God to Judas Iscariot. The stories prove that where miracles are, there is God, or as Zacchaeus proved — sometimes you have to go “out on a limb.”
A few homiletic samples will testify to the unique range of virtue, vice, miracles and everything in between. Of John the Baptist, Msgr. Weber writes: “The relationship of today’s Christian to a world that knows not Christ and to a people who mostly ignore his message, is analogous to the mission of John the Baptist…one of the most fascinating figures in all of salvation history.”
In the story of the rich man, it is interesting that Lazarus is the only character in all the parables referred to by name. (Archbishop George Neiderauer even notes this in his preface of the book.)
The author provides a thought provoking insight on Pontius Pilate — “one who has come down through history who asked the right question for the wrong reasons.” For Simon of Cyrene he notes that “the Christian world has always been indebted for his service on that dreadful Friday afternoon … he is a perpetual reminder to the human family that the cross of Christ is the badge of servitude and the standard of suffering.”
Each short sermon offers a chance to meditate and discover new insights to Gospel stories, for Lent or anytime.
“Characters from the Gospels” is published by Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam, New Hanpshire: www.loretopubs.org.