There are multiple reasons I give brief homilies. It is not for lack of preparation. In fact, it takes me more time and effort to compose a five minute homily than it would a 15 minute homily. I am reminded of what Blase Pascal once wrote, “I am sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I did not have time to write a short one.”
But there is also an implicit message I am seeking to convey by means of a short homily: the homily is not the most important part of the Mass. The Eucharist is. I want you to be filled and satisfied not by my words, but by Jesus himself.
Not many people realize that Abraham Lincoln was not the featured speaker at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. It was instead a man named Edward Everett. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as we all know, was a mere 270 words. Everett's address was more than 13,000. Afterwards, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.” Lincoln answered the letter the same day he received it, writing the circumstances were such that Everett could not have been excused to make a short address, nor himself a long one.
Jesus speaks to you in the Eucharistic Prayer, in the reception of communion, and the silence for your individual prayer. And it does not feel proper for me to speak longer than Jesus. Lincoln's prophecy in the Gettysburg Address, though inaccurate for him, will ring true for me: “The world will little note, nor long remember what [I] say here, but it can never forget what [Jesus] did here.”