One-page summary: Easter IV [C] Sunday (May 12) Homily (L-19)
Introduction: The fourth Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The Scripture lessons for this day concern the role of the shepherds of God’s flock in the Church. Each year on this Sunday, we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who devotedly and kindly takes care of his flock. The title "pastor" means shepherd. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects his flock—responsibilities that belong to every Church leader. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish dream of the Good Shepherd who also wished to include the Gentiles as part of God’s flock.
Scripture lessons summarized: Today's first reading describes how Paul and Barnabas opted to listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and follow him, and how, like their Master, they were rebuffed and rejected when they tried to share the good news of salvation. It also suggests that the sympathy of the early Christians for the Gentiles caused a rupture with Judaism. The second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, depicts Jesus as both the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd. John's vision encourages his readers with the assurance that every person who has ever followed Christ and led others to him will share everlasting life with him. The Gospel text offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of his Father’s hands. The challenge is that pastors and lay people alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care.
Life Messages: Let us become good shepherds and good sheep, good leaders and good followers.
(1) Let us become good shepherds: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, etc. are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.
(2) Let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Hence, as the good sheep of the parish, parishioners are expected to a) hear and follow the voice of their shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice; b) receive the spiritual food their pastors provide by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments and by attending prayer services, renewal programs and missions; c) cooperate with their pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by lovingly offering them constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties and by praying for them; and d) cooperate in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations. (3) Let us pray for vocations to priestly and religious life so that we may have more good shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community.
EASTER IV [C] (May 12): Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rv 7:9, 14b-17; Jn 10:27-30
Homily starter anecdote #I: “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd:” Years ago the great actor Richard Burton was given a grand reception in his childhood parish. While replying to the complimentary speeches in the parish auditorium he asked if there was anything, they specially wanted to hear from him. After a minute's pause his old pastor asked him if he could recite the Good Shepherd Psalm (Psalm 23), which he had taught Burton in his Sunday school. A strange look came over the actor's face. He paused for a moment, and then said, "I will, on one condition—that after I have recited it, you, my pastor and teacher will do the same." “I,” said the old, retired pastor, “am not an actor, but, if you wish it, I shall do so.” Impressively the actor began the Psalm. His voice and intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound, and, as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from the audience. As it died away, the old pastor rose from his wheelchair and began to recite the same Psalm. His voice was feeble and shivering and his tone was not faultless. But, when he finished, there was not a dry eye in the room. The actor rose and his voice quivered as he said, '"Ladies and gentlemen, I reached your eyes and ears, but my old pastor has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd." This Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus wants us to know him by experiencing him and to become good shepherds to those entrusted to our care.
#2: "Who's running the Church, you or the Holy Spirit?" Here is an anecdote that perfectly conveys the humble spirit of Pope St. John XXIII as a good shepherd. On the evening when he announced the opening of the Second Vatican Council -- the first one since 1870 -- he couldn't sleep. Finally, he called himself to order: "Angelo, why aren't you sleeping? Who's running the Church, you or the Holy Spirit? So sleep." And he did. Prior to his being elected Pope, Angelo Roncalli had served as a clerical diplomat in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece; as Papal Nuncio in Paris; and as Patriarch of Venice. All this training helped him deal with social problems in society and in the Church. While still an Archbishop, he noted: "Wherever I go, I pay more attention to what we have in common than to what separates us." Pope St. John XXIII began his mission by promising to be "a good shepherd." He brought a real revolution to the Apostolic Palace by getting rid of the three prescribed genuflections in private audiences and by his impromptu conversations with workers and gardeners on the streets of Vatican City. He was the first Pope in history "to pay tribute to the part played by women in public life and to the growing awareness of their human dignity." Best of all, by convening the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John XXIII, led by the Holy Spirit, set in motion a spirit of reform that continues to our day. In September of 2000, this son of Italian peasants was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II; he was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.
# 3: “LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” On a recent highway trip, one bumper sticker in particular grabbed my eye and caused me to consider its frank command: “LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” In a sense, the Scripture readings for today, Good Shepherd Sunday, proffer the same challenge to believers. Christianity admits of no mediocrity; the decision of Faith which discipleship demands requires a daily deliberateness and a constantly renewed certainty. Either Jesus and his way of life are accepted and followed, or they are rejected. There is no middle path; to live otherwise is to become an obstacle in the way of others. As Christians, each of us is called to be both a leader and a follower. Ultimately, as John points out in the Gospel, our leader is Jesus, the loving shepherd who calls us away from sin and self to union with him and one another. (Sanchez Files)
Introduction: The fourth Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The Scripture lessons for this day concern the role of the shepherds of God’s flock in the Church. Each year on this Sunday, we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who devotedly and kindly takes care of his flock. One pastor recently made the joking remark that some people think that their pastor works only on Sundays! This is obviously untrue. Exactly what responsibilities does God give a pastor and what does God expect of him besides saying Mass and preaching? The answer to the question lies in the title "pastor," which means shepherd. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects his flock—responsibilities that belong to every Church leader. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish dream of the Good Shepherd, Who also wished to include the Gentiles as part of God’s flock. Today's first reading describes how Paul and Barnabas opted to listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and follow him, and how, like their Master, they were rebuffed and rejected when they tried to share the Good News of salvation. It also suggests that the sympathy of the early Christians for the Gentiles caused a rupture with Judaism. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 100) reminds us that “…the Lord is God: He made us, His we are – His people, the flock He tends.” The second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, depicts Jesus as both the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd. John's vision encourages his readers with the assurance that every person who has ever followed Christ and led others to him and who has suffered rejection and persecution will also know the unending joy of victory and have a share in everlasting life. The Gospel text offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of Jesus’ Father’s hands. The challenge is that pastors and lay people alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care.
The first reading: Acts 13:14, 43-52, explained: Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor (present day Turkey). On the Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia where they were invited to give a word of exhortation to the people. They explained that since Christ had been rejected by the Jews, Christians were obliged to preach the Gospel to all the nations, thus emphasizing the universal mission of Christianity. In other words, since the Jews had rejected the word of God, it was being offered to the Gentiles. But those Jews in Antioch who opposed the idea of preaching to the Gentiles got enough of a following to expel the apostles from their territory. Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas remained faithful to the Gospel that Jesus had revealed. They “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” and continued to preach to the Gentiles who welcomed them with delight (v. 48). The mission of the Church is indeed a continuation of the ministry of salvation begun by Jesus. Is the seed of the Gospel still being sown to the ends of the earth? Are the poor, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the hungry, the thirsty, the lost and the imprisoned still the primary focus of our service?
The second reading: Rev 7:9, 14-17, explained: The book of Revelation, written for the encouragement of the persecuted Christians, depicts Jesus as both the slain and glorified Lamb and the Good Shepherd. In the latter role, he protects and refreshes his flock when they suffer persecution. John has a vision of all the sheep, representing the universal Church -- people “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” -- rescued by the Good Shepherd. The Lamb will shepherd and shelter those who, with his help, win through. He will feed them well and will wipe “away every tear from their eyes." The essence of the vision is that Christ in his glorified humanity will have the chief place in Heaven, and that all rational creatures will sing his praises forever. John’s visions promised his readers that Jesus, the Passover Lamb, would shepherd them, providing them with shelter, protection and safe passage to the life-giving waters of eternity (Psalms 23; 80; 35:10; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Jeremiah 2:13).
Gospel exegesis: The context: It was December, wintertime, probably the time of the Jewish Hanukkah feast (the Feast of Dedication), which commemorated the triumph of the Jewish commander Judas Maccabaeus over the Syrian leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 165 B. C. Jesus was walking in the Temple on the east side, which offered protection against the cold winds from the desert. The Jews had gathered around him. They were not sure whether or not he was the promised Messiah because there were many such wandering preachers and healers in those days. Hence, they asked him directly whether he was the Christ. Instead of giving them an equally direct answer, Jesus claimed that he was the Good Shepherd and explained to them his role.
Shepherds in the Old Testament: In the Old Testament, the image of the Shepherd is often applied to God as well as to the leaders of the people. The book of Exodus represents Yahweh several times as a Shepherd. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel compare Yahweh’s care and protection of His people to that of a shepherd. “He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against His breast and leading the mother ewes to their rest” (Is 40:11). Ezekiel represents God as a loving Shepherd who searches diligently for the lost sheep. Psalm 23 is David’s famous picture of God as The Good Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul” (RSV, 2nd Catholic Edition). The prophets often used harsh words to scold the selfish and insincere shepherds (or leaders) of their day. Jer 23:1: “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of My pasture to be destroyed and scattered." Ez 34:2: “Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Shepherds ought to feed their flock.”
The Good Shepherd in the New Testament: Introducing himself as the Good Shepherd of his flock, Jesus makes three claims in today’s Gospel.
1) He knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice: Just as the Palestinian shepherds knew each sheep of their flock by name, and the sheep knew their shepherd and his voice, so Jesus knows each one of us, our needs, our merits and our faults. He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to return his love by keeping his words. He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, through our friends and through the events of our lives. "God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our consciences, and He shouts to us in our pain!" (C.S. Lewis). 2) He gives eternal life to us, his sheep by receiving us into his sheepfold and giving us Faith through Baptism, and then he strengthens that Faith in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls in the Holy Eucharist and in the Divine words of the Holy Bible. He makes our society holy by the Sacraments of Matrimony and the priesthood (Holy Orders. 3) He protects his sheep by placing them in the loving hands of his Almighty Father. Without him to guide us and protect us, we are an easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world, including Satan and his minions.
In chapter ten of John’s Gospel, Jesus adds two more roles to those of the Good Shepherd. He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones. Jesus heals the wounds of our souls through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Jesus dies for his sheep: Just as the shepherds of ancient days protected their sheep from wild animals and thieves by risking their own lives, so Jesus died in expiation for the sins of all people.
Through today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches one of the central aspects of the ministerial priesthood: the priest as shepherd. It means that a priest is one who, by his consecration, lives for others. The title, “Father”, like the title, “Shepherd," expresses a relation of loving service to others in everything, from the most sacred ministries to the most trivial chores.
Life Messages: Let us become good shepherds and good sheep, good leaders and good followers.
1) Let us become good shepherds: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, etc. are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties, thus giving their children good example through the way they live their Christian lives.
2) Let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Jesus is the High Priest, the bishops are the successors of the apostles, the pastors are their helpers and the parishioners are the sheep. Hence, as the good sheep of the parish, parishioners are expected to a) hear and follow the voice of their shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice; b) receive the spiritual food our pastors provide by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments, and by attending prayer services, renewal programs, and missions; c) cooperate with our pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by lovingly offering them constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties, and by praying for them; and d) cooperate with our fellow-parishioners in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations.
3) Let us pray for vocations to the priesthood the diaconate, the mission fields and the consecrated life so that we may have more good shepherds to lead, feed and protect the Catholic community. Let us remember that the duty of fostering vocations is the concern of the whole believing community, and we discharge that responsibility primarily by living exemplary Christian lives. Parents foster vocations by creating a climate in homes based on solid Christian values. They should pray with their children for vocations during the family prayer time and speak encouraging words about their pastors, the missionaries, and the religious, instead of criticizing these servants of God. Such an atmosphere in the family will definitely foster vocations from such families. Financial support of seminarians is also a positive contribution to promoting vocations.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
#1: The young pastor was teaching the 23rd Psalm to the Sunday school children. He told them that they were sheep who needed guidance. Then the priest asked, "If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?"-- obviously indicating himself. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young boy said, "Jesus. Jesus is the Shepherd." The young priest, obviously caught by surprise, said to the boy, "Well then, who am I?" The boy frowned thoughtfully and then said, "I guess you must be a sheep dog."
#2: A man in an Armani suit, Ferragamo shoes, the latest Polarized sunglasses and a tightly knotted power tie emerges from his shiny silver BMW, approaches a shepherd guarding his flock, and proposes a wager: "Will you give me one of your sheep, if I can tell you the exact number in this flock?" The shepherd accepts. "973," says the man. The shepherd, astonished at the accuracy, says, "I'm a man of my word; take the sheep you have won." The man picks a sheep and begins to walk away. "Wait," cries the shepherd, "Let me have a chance to get even. Will you return my animal if I tell what your job is?” "Sure," replies the man. "You are an economist for a government think-tank," says the shepherd. "Amazing!" responds the man, "How did you deduce that?” "Well," says the shepherd, “you drove into my field uninvited. You asked me to pay you for information I already know, answered questions I haven’t asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now put down my dog; it is not a sheep!”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
1) Catholic questions& answers: Once Catholic.org,
2) Catholic answers for teenagers: EveryStudent.com,
3) The Catholic News Service:http://www.catholicnews.com
4) Doctrinal Concordance: http://www.infpage.com/concordance/
USCCB gospel video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/
22- Additional anecdotes 1) St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)’s Good Shepherd prayer: During her visit to the United Nations several years ago, Mother Theresa was approached by a diplomat who said, “I am not a Catholic, Mother. But I want to know: how should I pray.” The frail little nun took his burly hands in hers and spread out five of his fingers on one hand. “When you pray,” she said, “Think about the many blessings you have received; then, at the end of the day, count out on each finger the words spoken to you by Jesus: You.. did.. this.. for.. me.” The diplomat left holding up his hand as though it were a trophy and saying: “You did this for me.” In this simple prayer, Mother Theresa made the Resurrection seem real. What she meant was that the love and peace of the Good Shepherd is present to us in the many moments of compassion that bless our lives: in kind words, in the listening ear, in generous actions. Jesus is also present in the blessings we extend to others. The Good Shepherd of today’s Gospel guides us every day in our journey to eternal life.
2) "Whatever happens, don't let go." There is a wonderful scene towards the end of the movie, Titanic. As the ship is preparing to take its final plunge into the cold waters of the Atlantic, Jack Dawson and Rose are hanging straight onto the edge of the ship. Jack turns to Rose and tells her: "Don't let go. Whatever happens, don't let go." There is something profound in knowing that there is someone who wants us to hold on -- no matter how difficult the situation. As children, we hold on to our parents for guidance and protection. When we are adults, we hope to find a spouse or close friend who will hold us when we are hurt and carry us when we stumble. In today's Gospel, we hear the profound revelation from Jesus that God intends to "hold us" through every storm and every difficulty of life. Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, offers us double protection. He assures us that we are in his hands and nothing will ever take us from him. He further assures us that we are also in the Father's hands. Nothing can ultimately hurt us.
3) “I have a dream:” https://youtu.be/_IB0i6bJIjw During the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. kept alive the hopes of victims of race discrimination by sharing his dreams. On August 28, 1963, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, he told the audience of nearly 250,000 those who had joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, (Wikipedia) “I have a dream . . . a dream that one day the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . that this desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” King’s dream awakened a nation and challenged its people and its legislators to face the inequities being perpetrated against some of its citizens. King’s dream offered consolation, inspired courage and strengthened the committed. Twenty centuries before King, the seer, John, similarly served his contemporaries with his visions. Like King, John shared his visions with the struggling. During the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (AD 81-96), Christians were being persecuted for their Faith. Denied the right to worship as they wished, they were judged guilty of treason for refusing to venerate Domitian as god. So condemned, they became the prey of one of the fiercest persecutions ever launched against the Church. A contemporary of John’s, Clement of Rome, described the injustices suffered by those early followers of Christ as “sudden and repeated misfortunes and calamities.” Nevertheless, the Church was not without hope. John’s vision of a glorious future in the eternal presence of God and the victorious Lamb of God (Jesus) strengthened his contemporaries in their resolve to remain firm in their Faith, undeterred in their baptismal commitment. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)’s Good Shepherd prayer: During her visit to the United Nations several years ago, Mother Theresa was approached by a diplomat who said, “I am not a Catholic, Mother. But I want to know: how should I pray.” The frail little nun took his burly hands in hers and spread out five of his fingers on one hand. “When you pray,” she said, “Think about the many blessings you have received; then, at the end of the day, count out on each finger the words spoken to you by Jesus: You.. did.. this.. for.. me.” The diplomat left holding up his hand as though it were a trophy and saying: “You did this for me.” In this simple prayer, Mother Theresa made the Resurrection seem real. What she meant was that the love and peace of the Good Shepherd is present to us in the many moments of compassion that bless our lives: in kind words, in the listening ear, in generous actions. Jesus is also present in the blessings we extend to others. The Good Shepherd of today’s Gospel guides us every day in our journey to eternal life. (Sanchez Files)
4) A sergeant’s good shepherd’s story: There was a sergeant in the Marines who was the senior enlisted man in his platoon. One day his outfit was ambushed and pinned down by enemy fire. The lieutenant in command was badly wounded as were many of the men. The sergeant took over and extricated the men from the trap, though he himself was wounded twice. He went back by himself to carry out the wounded commanding officer. Miraculously every man in the platoon survived, even the wounded lieutenant. Later the men said that if it were not for the incredible bravery of the sergeant, they all would have been killed. “He was like a father to us,” they said. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor but did not receive it. However, he did receive the DFC. He never wore the medal because he said the lives of his men were more important than any medal. Later when he had children of his own, he loved them devotedly. His wife said that during the war he had learned to be tender.
5) Jesus knows his sheep by name: There have always been people with a good memory for names: Napoleon, "who knew thousands of his soldiers by name . . .” or James A. Farley, "who claimed he knew 50,000 people by their first name . . .” or Charles Schwab, "who knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Homestead Mill . . .” or Charles W. Eliot, "who, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year . . .” or Harry Lorayne, "who used to amaze his audiences by being introduced to hundreds of people, one after another, then giving the name of any person who stood up and requested it.” But can you imagine Christ knowing all his sheep by name? That's millions and millions of people over 2,000 years. No wonder we call him Master, Lord, Savior – watching over his flock, calling each by name!
6) “I only know them by name." Tony Campolo loves to tell the story of a particular census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There's Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie." It was then that the census taker interrupted her aid said: "No, ma'am, that's not necessary. I only need the humans." "Ah," she said. "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey, Johnny, and Harvey, and...." But there once again, the census taker interrupted her. Slightly exasperated, he said, "No, ma'am, you don't seem to understand. I don't need their names; I just need the numbers." To which the old woman replied, "But I don't know them by numbers. I only know them by name." In today’s Gospel Jesus the Good Shepherd says that he knows his sheep by name.
7) “I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility." About 4 years ago, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan $50,000 to change his name legally to "Dallas Maverick." When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000 and donate $100,000 to Kaplan's favorite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching and being bombarded by e-mails from listeners who said he was crazy to turn down the money, Kaplan held firm and told Cuban no. Kaplan explained: "I'd be saying I'd do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright. I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility." [Skip Bayless, Chicago Tribune (1/10/01), Leadership Summer 2001)] The name "Christian" is our birthright. From the moment of our Baptism and our birth into the Kingdom of God, we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd who promises to lead us to green pastures and beside the still waters. The Voice of the Shepherd protects us.
8) "May I see your driver's license?" Everyone, it seems, is interested in my numbers. I go to the grocery store to buy some groceries. After the checkout woman rings up my bill, I pull out my checkbook and write out the check. She takes it from me. She looks at the information. Numbers tell her where I live. Numbers tell her how to reach me on the telephone. "Is this information correct?" she asks. "Yes, it is," I reply. "May I see your driver's license?" she asks. She looks at my driver's license and writes some more numbers on my check. Finally, I am approved. The numbers are all there. I can eat for another week. One could wish it were a bit more human and personal. So the IRS knows me by my tax number. My state knows me by my driver's license number. My bank knows me by my bank account number. My employer knows me by my social security number. On and on it goes for you, for me, for everybody. Everybody knows my numbers. I am not sure that anyone knows me! The numbers game that is played in our culture is one symptom of loneliness and alienation that surrounds us today. "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?" That is a line from the song Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles. Loneliness. Isolation. Alienation. These are the realities of contemporary civilized life. "I am the Good Shepherd." These are Jesus' words in our reading from John's Gospel text for this sermon. "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me ..." Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus knows us personally and loves us.
9) His Master’s Voice: Have you ever seen the painting done in the 1930s of a dog, looking with a cocked head, at an old gramophone? The name of the painting is His Master's Voice, and it's a symbol of what Jesus is saying to us. "The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
10) “Then we FLEECE them!” Two television evangelists were talking. One was explaining how he was seeking to be the ideal shepherd to his television flock. “There are three ways I seek to do that,” he said. “What three ways do you mean?” asked the other evangelist. “Well” he explained, “First, we FIND them. Every year we find new stations to carry our ministry. Then we FEED them. I give them the plain unvarnished word of God.” “But what’s the third thing?” asked the second evangelist. “Well,” he answered, “Once we’ve found them and fed them, then we FLEECE them!” Some TV evangelists have become quite proficient at fleecing their flock. I hope you understand that nothing could be farther from the example of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . .” Fleecing the flock is a long way from laying down your life for them.
11) “But I never jumped.” A paratrooper who had recently resigned from the military was asked how many times he had jumped out of an airplane. He said, “None.” A friend of his asked, “What do you mean, ‘none,’ I thought you were a paratrooper?” He said, “I was, but I never jumped. I was pushed several times . . . but I never jumped.” The hired hand never jumps. He has to be pushed. Churches often have hired hands in them. Not our Church, of course! But other Churches are full of people who have to be pushed to do what they know they ought to do. Jesus did not have to be pushed.
12) “I give my life for my sheep”: We applaud when a man or woman gives his or her life for another. Such instances do come along from time to time. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. May 28, 1989: "Former NFL football player Jerry Anderson," read the newspaper account, "died Saturday after pulling two young boys out of a rain-swollen river about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Witnesses said Anderson saw two boys, thought to be 11 or 12 years old, attempting to cross a dam spanning the river. One or both boys fell into the water. According to Officer Bill Todd, ‘Mr. Anderson jumped in the water and managed to get the little boys out, but witnesses said he went under two or three times and about the fourth time, he didn't come back up.’" He gave his life to rescue two small boys.
Of course, you don't have to be an American or a football player for such heroic actions. In a Middle school in the Ukrainian village of Ivanichi, a young teacher died sometime back. He absorbed the blast of a hand grenade to protect his pupils. What was a grenade doing in a middle school? According to the London Times, the teacher, a graduate of the KGB border guard college, had been delivering the military instruction that is a compulsory part of the curriculum for Soviet children. He was teaching them how to handle what should have been an unarmed grenade. When he pulled the pin a wisp of smoke showed that a live grenade had become mixed in with demonstration grenades, and he fell on the grenade, giving his life to save the children.
You don't have to be a man to perform such heroics. Many years ago a woman carrying a baby through the hills of South Wales, England, was overtaken by a blizzard. Searchers found her later frozen to death in the snow. Amazed that she had on no outer garments, they searched further and found her baby. She had wrapped them around the child, who was still alive and well. He grew up to be David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War I.
13) Big Brother is watching us: Ever since George Orwell's 1984 hit the bookstores, people concerned about individual privacy and freedom have looked for signs that Big Brother is becoming a reality in our society. And it is true that more and more of our urban landscape is being observed by security cameras. But that is only one way our privacy is being invaded. There was a news report several years ago that Israeli scientists are now marketing a microchip that, implanted under the skin, will protect film stars and millionaires from kidnappers. The chip emits a signal detectable by satellite to help rescuers determine a victim’s approximate location. Originally the chip was developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad. The $5,000 chip doesn’t even require batteries. It runs solely on the neurophysiological energy generated within the human body. The firm which developed it, Gen-Etics, won’t reveal where the chip is inserted but said that, at that time, 43 people had had it implanted. Since this report was published there has been an explosion of interest in this technology. Farmers keep tabs on the health and safety of their cows and other livestock with such chips. But the use of such devices to monitor human beings is almost limitless. Already there is a monitoring bracelet for Alzheimer patients, so that families can use GPS systems to help find loved ones who might have wandered off. Would it be inconceivable that loving parents might want to monitor the whereabouts of their children via satellite? Why not have a chip implanted? Pet owners are already using such technology. Some cynics have suggested that some wives might want to monitor their husbands. Soon we will see signs, “Big Brother is watching.” Here’s what’s amusing to me. There are people who have no difficulty believing that one day the government will keep track of us all, but who cannot conceive that an all-knowing God can take a personal interest in each of His children, hear each of our prayers, and be responsive to each of our individual needs.
14) Images are highly influential. They become emblazoned on the wall of our minds, and they evoke a wide range of responses. Millions of people will remember the fireman carrying the baby out of the ruins of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. World War II veterans, particularly the ones who served in the South Pacific, will always remember Mount Surabachi and the Marines who raised an American flag at its summit, as well as the image of General MacArthur returning to the Philippines. Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon in the early '70s is frozen in many memories, too. If you were old enough to watch and understand television in l963, you probably remember young John F. Kennedy, Jr., at the casket of his father Jack. Much closer to our own time, many of us will long retain the image of students running out of Columbine High School with their hands over their heads. Some images are immensely powerful and have a tenacity that is tireless and timeless. If there is one image associated with the Christian Faith which, more than any other, has found an enduring place within the collective life of the Christian church, it is the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
15) Hannah and her Sisters: A movie by Woody Allen, titled, Hannah and Her Sisters, deals precisely with that theme. It is about Hannah and her sisters and how family life gives some sense of stability to life in a fractured world. The part played by Woody Allen in the movie is that of a man who is constantly afraid that he will get some terrible disease. He is what we call a hypochondriac. As he comes into the movie, we see him on his way to the doctor. The doctor assures him that nothing seems to be terribly wrong, though some additional tests need to be made. Woody cannot calm himself over these additional tests. He is sure they will find something terrible. "What are you afraid of," one of his friends asks him, "cancer?" "Don't say that," Woody responds with a look of terror. More tests are performed. A CAT scan is prescribed for his head. He is sure they will find a brain tumor. But his fears are unfounded. The doctor announces to him that all is well. In the next scene we see Woody coming out of the hospital, kicking up his heels, and running joyfully down the street. He is celebrating. But suddenly he stops. We know instinctively why he stops. He tells us in the next scene. "All this means," he says, "is that I am all right this time. Next time it will probably be serious.” Our lives are lived in constant danger. Woody Allen's character overplays the danger. But the danger is there. There are all kinds of realities that imperil our lives nearly every day. Accidents might befall us. Natural disasters strike. Oppressive structures of life weigh us down. Disease stalks us and death awaits. That is the way life is. We live our lives in constant peril. Woody Allen might have exaggerated a bit, but he is right. Human life is an endangered species. Death calls a halt to every human life. "I am the Good Shepherd," Jesus says. "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
16) The Bismarck: In the beginning of World War II, the Nazis commissioned a massive battleship named the Bismarck. It was the biggest fighting vessel the world had seen up to that time. With the Bismarck, the Germans had the opportunity to dominate the seas. Very soon after it was commissioned, the Bismarck sank tons of Allied shipping and allied aircraft. Its massive armor plating resulted in the boast that the Bismarck was unsinkable. But the Bismarck was sunk. And it was sunk due to one lone torpedo. A torpedo hit the Bismarck in the rudder. As a result, the battleship zig-zagged through the sea, unable to reach harbor. It was only a short while before the British navy was able to overtake and destroy it. No matter how large the battleship may be, it is doomed without a rudder to direct it. Floundering on the waters of chaos without a rudder, the Bismarck is a modern-day image of a world without the direction of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without the Lord, the world is headed toward chaos. But with the Lord there is guidance, direction and purpose in life.
17) Alexander, the shepherd of soldiers. When the emperor Alexander the Great was crossing the Makran Desert on his way to Persia, his army ran out of water. The soldiers were dying of thirst as they advanced under the burning sun. A couple of Alexander's lieutenants managed to capture some water from a passing caravan. They brought some to him in a helmet. He asked, "Is there enough for both me and my men?" "Only you, sir," they replied. Alexander then lifted up the helmet as the soldiers watched. Instead of drinking, he tipped it over and poured the water on the ground. The men let up a great shout of admiration. They knew their general would not allow them to suffer anything he was unwilling to suffer himself.
18) “It will kill you if you move.” A soldier dying on a Korean battlefield asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied. “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.
19) Four clergymen, taking a short break from their heavy schedules, were on a park bench, chatting and enjoying an early spring day. “You know, since all of us are such good friends,” said one, “this might be a good time to discuss personal problems.” They all agreed. “Well, I would like to share with you the fact that I drink to excess,” said one. There was a gasp from the other three. Then another spoke up. “Since you were so honest, I’d like to say that my big problem is gambling. It’s terrible, I know, but I can’t quit. I’ve even been tempted to take money from the collection plate.” Another gasp was heard, and the third clergyman spoke. “I’m really troubled, brothers, because I’m growing fond of a woman in my church — a married woman.” More gasps. But the fourth remained silent. After a few minutes the others coaxed him to open up. “The fact is,” he said, “I just don’t know how to tell you about my problem.” “It’s all right, brother. Your secret is safe with us,” said the others. “Well, it’s this way,” he said. “You see, I’m an incurable gossip.” Jokes like this have shaped our views of priests as if there is no difference between the life and work of a priest and that of other Christians. Today’s Gospel tells us that priests are expected to be Good Shepherds as the picture given by Jesus. (Fr. Munacci).
20) WHO IS YOUR SHEPHERD?
The TV is my shepherd; I shall not want.
It makes me to lie down on the sofa.
It leads me away from the Faith.
It destroys my soul.
It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake.
Even though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities,
There will be no interruption, for the TV is with me.
Its cable and remote control, they comfort me.
It prepares a commercial for me in the midst of my worldliness
And anoints my head with secular humanism and consumerism.
My covetousness runs over.
Surely ignorance and laziness shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever. (Broadcast on EWTN on March 18, 2002)
21) “I prayed and prayed, and I thought you were going to save me!” A Christian humorist once told a story about a man who had climbed onto the roof of his home to escape rising flood waters from torrential rains. He prayed to God to act quickly to save him. After a short while, a search and rescue team came and shouted for the man to jump and swim to their boat. He refused, saying that God would take care of him. Later, a helicopter pilot lowered a ladder and beckoned to him to climb up to safety. Again, he refused, affirming his reliance on God. Hours passed and, as the sky grew dark and the air cold, the man cried out his distress to God, “I prayed and prayed, and I thought you were going to save me!” After a moment of silence, the rooftop refugee heard a voice, “I sent you a team with a boat and a pilot with a helicopter. . . what more do you want?” Because aid did not come in the manner he expected, the man didn’t recognize his divine rescuer. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries appear to have had a similar experience. He was not the type of Savior they had anticipated; therefore, they did not recognize him as such, nor did they respond to his voice by following him. However, as the fourth evangelist points out in today’s Gospel, those who did hear his voice were promised the gift of eternal life. (Sanchez Files).
22) Jewish dream for a new Judas Maccabeus: An eight day festival of lights held each Chislev (December), Hanukkah memorialized the successful Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids (a Greek dynasty) in 164 B.C.E. Three years earlier, in 167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes IV had desecrated the Jerusalem temple by placing a statue and altar of Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings, Daniel’s “the abomination of desolation in the Holy Place” (Daniel 8:13). Antiochus ordered the people to worship the idol and to sacrifice swine on Zeus’s altar to worship that god. [(Josephus, The Jewish War). See www. Penelope.uchicago.edu —Encyclopaedia Romana, Notae, Miscellanea, Trivia Questions, Question #11: Which three kings of Orient old were like no man’s adversary?) After routing their oppressors and destroying their idols, the Jews, led by Judas Maccabeus built a new altar and reconsecrated the Temple. Thereafter Hanukkah became a feast which celebrated not only the restoration of the Temple and its liturgy but also the national heroes of Judah. There is little wonder that this feast also occasioned public excitement and desire for a new Judas Maccabeus to rise up from among them and lead them to victory over the Romans. Jesus, however, was a hero of another ilk. He would, indeed, lead a revolt and emerge victorious, but it would be a revolt against the forces of evil and a victory over death. Those wishing a share in his victory need only listen to Jesus’ voice and follow his lead.
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 27) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.
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