If you happened to be at King's College Chapel during the noon Mass on Monday, you heard the gospel reading about Jesus at the marriage feast of Cana.
The wedding is running out of wine, and Jesus' mother, Mary, is concerned on behalf of the bride and groom. When she hints to her son she would like him to help them, he seems to put her off at first.
This part of the story gave the Rev. Genaro Aquilar, C.S.C., a chance to inject some humor into the sermon he gave afterward.
I know how my mother would have responded if I said, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.' I would have felt the back of her hand. She would have said, ‘I'll tell you when your hour is here'.
The chapel congregation, about 25 college staff and downtown workers, chuckled appreciatively, and listened as Aquilar made a few concise points: It's wonderful that Mary is persistent, that Jesus grants her request, and that the gospel paints a picture of the holy family sharing the joy of a wedding.
The priests here at King's give very good sermons, said Eileen Murphy, a retired teacher from Hanover Township who likes to attend the daily noon Mass. They're very down-to-earth. What they say is about the gospel, and they relate it to everyday life.
Preaching didn't always come easily to Aquilar, 62, who has been a priest for more than 30 years, but people have told him he does it well.
I am humbled again and again by people saying that. It's the Spirit that's at work, he said after Mass. I turn it over to the Spirit.
Still, Aquilar makes the time and effort to prepare.
I take the readings, and I pray over them, he said. If it's a Sunday homily, I read them the week before and then let it rest a little and come back to them and pray again.
Another priest stationed at King's, the Rev. Daniel Issing CSC, said it's helpful that the Church has a liturgical calendar of seasons. With advent being a time of waiting, Christmas a time of joy, Lent a time of reconciliation and Easter a season of resurrection, he said, a sermon theme can present itself naturally.
Some of the best advice I ever received about preaching came from a Protestant minister when I was first ordained, Issing added. He told me, ‘Only preach about things you know, things that are grounded in your own experience.'
Although he doesn't feel a need to refer to notes anymore, Aquilar said, he did find them helpful when he was starting out.
Once, he remembers, he had prepared some remarks only to realize at the last minute he had based them on the wrong Scripture passages.
I ripped up my notes and really relied on the Spirit that day, he said.