Homily vs. Sermon – Difference, Meaning & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

When it comes to religious talks, I see two terms thrown around all the time: homily and sermon. But I always thought they were the same thing. Now I understand that there are actually a few differences between them and how you should be using them. So, I’m going to delve into the meaning of sermon and homily so you understand the differences and similarities, too!

What Is a Homily?

I’ve always known that a homily is a speech or talk given to people by a religious figure, like a priest, during some sort of religious service. It’s usually based on the scripture readings of the day and is meant to provide insight and guidance to the congregation. Also, it’s used more in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran religions.

I remember going to church with my grandmother, and they would have that day’s homily written on a small chalkboard, so we could find it in the bible and follow along.

But I now know that homilies are different from sermons because they’re usually much shorter and often have a more conversational tone to them.

What Is a Sermon?

A sermon is similar to a homily with a religious figure speaking to a congregation, but it’s a more formal and structured speech compared to a more laid-back homily.

It’s also longer and typically divided into three parts: the introduction, the body, and a conclusion. Sermons are usually based on a topic or theme and are meant to educate, inspire, or even challenge the congregation.

Homily vs. Sermon

Homily vs. Sermon Difference Meaning Examples

There are a few similarities and differences to look at between a sermon and a homily.

Both are spoken during religious services like mass or a special event and are meant to offer guidance and insight to the congregation.

Homilies are supposed to be more informal and conversational in their tone, while sermons are planned out with more structure and are considered formal.

Homilies are made to be shorter in length than sermons. Sermons can be longer and are based on a certain theme that sets the tone for the whole service.

Basically, when you break them down on a basic level, a homily can be a simple topic or lesson to kickstart a sermon.

When to Use Sermon

Sermons are more appropriate for special occasions like weddings, funerals, or holiday services, like Christmas mass. They’re also really helpful when the clergyman or priest wants to delve more deeply into the lesson they’re trying to bring forth, like being good to your neighbor or connecting with current events.

When to Use Homily

You’ll find homilies used during regular weekly services, like Sunday mass. They’re awesome when the speaker wants to provide simple guidance and a bit of insight into the scripture readings of the day.

Synonyms for Sermon and Homily

If you’re tired of using the words sermon or homily, or they simply don’t fit in the context you’re building, you can use plenty of synonyms instead.

  • Discourse
  • Address
  • Lecture
  • Oration
  • Speech
  • Talk
  • Exhortation
  • Preaching
  • Lesson
  • Teaching

Examples Using Homily in a Sentence

Homily vs. Sermon Difference Meaning Examples 1
  • I sat with my grandmother as the priest delivered a moving homily from biblical scripture on forgiveness during Sunday Mass.
  • The deacon gave a short homily on the importance of community during last week’s service, and it was beautiful.
  • The minister delivered a homily on social justice, and you could feel the sense of inspiration that moved through the congregation.

Like “Pastor King,” as Cardinal Dolan referred to him throughout his homily, “our belief in the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of all human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racial antagonism to justice for immigrants, from the war-torn to the hungry,” the prelate said. (The Catholic News Service)

Examples Using Sermon in a Sentence

  • Our friendly pastor gave a powerful sermon on love and acceptance during the Easter service.
  • When I was a kid, I used to hate listening to boring sermons at mass, but now I enjoy them.
  • We watched from home as the bishop delivered a thought-provoking sermon on the role of faith in today’s society.
  • We had a visiting priest give a sermon on the importance of gratitude that left a lasting impression on everyone who was there today.

Jackson’s sermon addressed the “misplaced priorities” and “spiritual bankruptcy of those who managed to open the national treasury wide enough to pass a huge tax cut for the richest of the rich but cannot keep the government open long enough to heal the sick, feed the hungry or pay those who serve and protect us all,” according to the release. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Powerful Words and a Slight Difference

So that about sums it up. You can usually get away with using these two terms interchangeably, but if you want to be accurate, remember that the primary difference is that a homily is short, and a sermon is long. With those tips in mind, you’ll never get these mixed up again.

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