Difference Wiki

Sermon vs. Homily: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 5, 2023
A "sermon" is a general religious discourse for edification, while a "homily" is a reflection on scriptural readings, often in Catholic settings.

Key Differences

A sermon and a homily both refer to spoken discourses relating to spiritual matters, but they differ in content, context, and tradition. A sermon, widely recognized in various religious traditions, is a talk on a religious or moral subject. It is aimed at providing guidance, edification, or calling its listeners to action. In contrast, a homily, especially prevalent in the Catholic Church, is a more specific form of discourse, often reflecting on the scriptures read during a liturgical service.
Sermons can be found in a variety of religious settings, not limited to Christianity. For instance, in Islam, the Friday congregational prayer is often accompanied by a sermon known as "khutbah". However, a homily is closely tied to Christian traditions, primarily Catholic and Orthodox, where it seeks to explain and reflect on the scriptural readings of the day.
The content of a sermon can be vast and varied, depending on the message the preacher wishes to convey. It might not always directly link to specific scriptural passages but can address broader spiritual and moral themes. On the other hand, a homily is inherently scriptural, taking its cue directly from the biblical passages read out during the service, aiming to make the Word of God more comprehensible and relevant to the congregation.
In terms of delivery, sermons can vary in length and might be part of larger religious events or services. A homily, especially within the context of a Catholic Mass, is typically shorter and is an integral part of the liturgical celebration, bridging the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Comparison Chart


A religious discourse for guidance.
Reflection on scriptural readings in a liturgical service.

Religious Tradition

Present in various religious traditions.
Primarily Catholic and Orthodox Christian.

Content Focus

Can be broad or topic-specific.
Directly linked to the day's scriptural readings.


Various religious settings and events.
Integral to liturgical celebrations like the Mass.

Length and Structure

Can vary in length and structure.
Typically shorter and more focused.

Sermon and Homily Definitions


An admonitory or moralizing discourse.
The teacher gave us a sermon on responsibility.


An informal and conversational discourse on moral topics.
The nun gave a short homily on the importance of gratitude.


A religious discourse for spiritual edification.
The pastor delivered a moving sermon on hope.


A short talk on a moral topic.
The bishop delivered a homily on the virtue of patience.


A talk on a moral or religious subject.
The sermon today reminded us of the importance of kindness.


A religious discourse intended to explain a scripture.
Today's homily helped me understand the parable better.


A public lecture on a specific topic.
The activist's sermon on climate change was eye-opening.


A reflection or commentary on scriptural readings.
The priest's homily explained the Gospel reading beautifully.


A prolonged talk or discourse by a single speaker.
His sermon on the merits of hard work was inspiring.


A sermon, especially one intended to explain the practical and moral implications of a particular scriptural passage.


A religious discourse, especially one delivered as part of a service.


A moralizing lecture or admonition that is often tedious or condescending.


An often lengthy and tedious speech of reproof or exhortation
"his father's Teutonic and pedestrian sermon on the safety of staying home" (Paul Theroux).


A platitudinous or inspirational saying
"'Receiving is a form of giving,' she said, in one of those sudden banal homilies that came to her every now and again" (Willie Morris).


Religious discourse; a written or spoken address on a religious or moral matter.


(Christianity) A sermon, especially concerning a practical matter.


A lengthy speech of reproval.


A moralizing lecture.


To discourse to or of, as in a sermon.


A platitude.


To tutor; to lecture.


A discourse or sermon read or pronounced to an audience; a serious discourse.


A discourse or address; a talk; a writing; as, the sermons of Chaucer.


A serious or tedious exhortation in private on some moral point, or on the conduct of life.
As I have heard my fatherDeal out in his long homilies.


Specifically, a discourse delivered in public, usually by a clergyman, for the purpose of religious instruction and grounded on some text or passage of Scripture.
This our life exempt from public hauntsFinds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,Sermons in stones and good in everything.
His preaching much, but more his practice, wrought,A living sermon of the truths he taught.


A sermon on a moral or religious topic


Hence, a serious address; a lecture on one's conduct or duty; an exhortation or reproof; a homily; - often in a depreciatory sense.


A sermon in Catholic or Orthodox traditions.
The homily during Easter Mass was uplifting.


To speak; to discourse; to compose or deliver a sermon.
What needeth it to sermon of it more?


To discourse to or of, as in a sermon.


To tutor; to lecture.


An address of a religious nature (usually delivered during a church service)


A moralistic rebuke;
Your preaching is wasted on him


Can a sermon be given by anyone?

While often delivered by religious leaders, in some traditions, laypeople might also give sermons.

Is a sermon specific to Christianity?

No, sermons can be found in various religious traditions.

How long is a typical homily?

Homilies, especially in Catholic Mass, are typically shorter and concise, focusing on the day's readings.

Is a homily always given by a priest?

In Catholic and Orthodox settings, yes, but in other denominations, other church leaders might also deliver homilies.

Do all Christian denominations practice homilies?

Homilies are more prevalent in Catholic and Orthodox traditions but can be found in other denominations as well.

Can a homily be given outside of Mass?

While commonly within Mass, a homily can be given during other liturgical services.

Is the content of a homily always from the Bible?

A homily primarily reflects on the day's scriptural readings, making them more understandable to the congregation.

Does a homily have a specific place in the liturgy?

Yes, in the Catholic Mass, it follows the Gospel reading and precedes the Creed.

Is every religious talk a sermon?

Not necessarily. A sermon is a specific type of religious discourse for edification or guidance.

Can a sermon be interactive?

While traditionally not, some modern sermons can involve audience participation or Q&A sessions.

Can a sermon address current events?

Yes, sermons can address contemporary issues in the light of religious teachings.

Is the homily a newer practice in Christianity?

No, the practice of delivering homilies dates back to the early Christian Church.

Can a homily be controversial?

While meant for reflection, some homilies might address contentious issues, leading to varied reactions.

Do all church services include a sermon?

Most do, but the inclusion of a sermon can vary based on the service or denomination.

Is the sermon's format consistent across religions?

While the concept is similar, the format, content, and delivery can vary based on religious and cultural contexts.

Are sermons always scripted?

Not always. While some preachers prepare thoroughly, others might deliver extemporaneous sermons.

What's the primary goal of a homily?

To make the day's scriptural readings more comprehensible and relevant to the congregation.

Is a homily always serious in tone?

While generally solemn, some homilies can incorporate anecdotes or humor to convey the message effectively.

Can sermons be themed around religious festivals?

Yes, special sermons can be given on occasions like Easter, Christmas, etc.

Can sermons be broadcasted or shared online?

Yes, many religious institutions now broadcast sermons or share them on platforms like YouTube.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons