Homiletics, from homily, is the study of the art of blending hermeneutics and rhetoric in a public or private discourse, normally confined to a Biblical topic, for the purpose of admonishing or moralizing and correcting or guiding an audience of one or more persons toward improvement of understanding and knowledge of doctrine and practice. "By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year." The one who preaches or delivers the homily, the homilist, is ideally exercising at least two of the works of mercy, instructing the ignorant, and admonishing the sinner. In the New Testament are found outstanding examples of the homily, of preaching, in the Book of Acts, and the major portion of the Letter to the Hebrews.
The word "homily" is sometimes incorrectly used as a synonym for "sermon", which is similar to a homily, but is primarily more a form of speech intended as a powerful appeal to emotion, usually of a nondoctrinal nature, using rhetoric for the purpose of promoting a cause, and sometimes employing sophistry, demagoguery and polemic to harangue the audience, and normally lasts from 20 minutes to an hour. Christian Revival gatherings feature the preaching of powerful sermons. Famous examples of preachers of sermons include John Chrysostom, Pope Urban II, the Dominicans who preached against the Cathars, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Brigham Young, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Outstanding examples of a secular version of the sermon can be seen in the speeches of political and campaign rallies, as for example Lincoln's "House Divided" Speech, the speeches of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and the recruiting of radical extremists by the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and ISIS.
- From Late Latin homilia, from the Greek homilia, from homilos "assembly", from homos "man".
- Documents of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Consilium (SC), Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 52.
- Acts 2:14-41; 10:34-43; 13:16-41; 15:7-21; Hebrews 1:1–13:21 (omitting the last four verses, 13:22-25)
- For example, Peter's words to the Sanhedrin in Acts 3:12-26, Paul's words to the Areopagus in Acts 17:22-31 and to the elders of Miletus in Acts 20:18-35, and the speeches of Demetrius to the silversmiths and of the town clerk to the crowd in Acts 19:25-28, 35-41. Another example is the speech, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears", the first line of a speech by Mark Antony in the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare.