Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 4:25 PM
WELCOME BACK! Bishop's updated guidelines: Fully vaccinated need not wear masks; unvaccinated and at-risk encouraged to wear masks. Receive communion in hand, strongly recommended. Dispensation still.
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Homily, 4th Sunday of Easter

Jesus, the Cornerstone and Good Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

There are two metaphors in today’s readings that describe Jesus. First, Peter, drawing upon the words of the psalmist, calls Jesus the cornerstone. He is the foundation of our Christian faith, the one who conquered death and bought salvation to the world. Then, in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. He leads and cares for his sheep, even sheep outside the fold, eventually laying down his life for them, for us.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, what we often call Good Shepherd Sunday, we gather to again reflect on this comforting image.  Jesus took up the imagery of shepherds because it was central to the economy of the Jews, but more importantly to their history and religious thought. Many of the great figures of their history and religion had been shepherds at least for part of their lives. The ancient patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all had flocks of sheep. Moses and David, both worked as shepherds before they were called to lead God’s people. In due course, the leaders of God’s people were generally called shepherds, regardless of their previous work. However, not all of these Old Testament leaders were good shepherds. We too have had the experience of being disappointed by heroes and leaders in our life.

But Jesus Christ, the man God promised to raise up and fulfil God’s plans, would be a good shepherd after the heart of God. Jesus introduced a new feature into the work of the Good Shepherd and would lay down his life for his sheep. This was not a feature associated with the Old Testament shepherd promises. Jesus is a shepherd unlike any other, a shepherd who will never run from trouble, but who will give his life for his sheep if necessary.  His care for his flock is unlimited, unconditional, and unquestionable. 

This image of God is in stark contrast to how most people viewed God for much of human history and how some still view God today.  God was simply to be feared, viewed with suspicion, and unpredictable. But the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is something different.  This is a God who will protect us, a God who is on our side, not just when we do the right thing, but even when we mess up. “I have come to seek out and save the lost”.  Yet, there is a trap we can fall into if we are not careful. It is one thing to believe that God will be good to us, help us, protect us, and love us.  But it is another thing to buy into what the image of the Good Shepherd implies.  And what is it?   It implies that we cannot simply turn to the Good Shepherd when it suits our purposes, when we feel we need him.  Rather, it means that we are expected also to listen and follow, not just when it is convenient but always, in every situation and in every circumstance.   Relying on the Good Shepherd is not a once-in a-while thing.  It’s a way of life. It means that we have to accept in faith that God knows better; that God’s way is better and following his lead is the only way that makes any sense. And that takes humility, trust, and faith.

In his life and in his death, Jesus always sought out the lost, the least and the last. When he wanted to speak of a tender God, he told the people about a shepherd who, when he loses one of his sheep, leaves the others and goes off in search of the lost one. Note that everything Jesus says about being our shepherd is addressed to us in plural. He does not invite us to be his exclusive lamb, but the sheep of his flock. Jesus invites us to be his communal sheep, giving our lives to and for others. 

Probably you know two or three people who have wandered away from the Church, people who have lost their sense of belonging or who feel they have no community to belong to. How can we help them to make the journey back to the fold? How do we make them reconnect again? How are you collaborating with the Lord in bringing as many people as possible back into his one-fold – into his Church?  Such a question may intimidate because it might call to mind more active and external works of evangelization, like dialoguing with others about what we believe and challenging their own beliefs. We need to step back from that and see what is more fundamental. It does not depend primarily upon our eloquence or our arguments, but it does depend upon our being credible: that is, living out the faith that we profess in a coherent way. When I look back over my life, I see that the individuals and families who most inspired me were not necessarily those who argued about the faith or even talked about it a lot, but those who lived it out in a natural and simple, yet visible way.

Finally, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, we pray that many men and women listen for the Lord’s call - respond generously and courageously; we also pray for good shepherds who will care for the flock of the one true Shepherd, shepherds after the Lord’s heart. ###



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