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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Deacon Pat’s Homily, 4th Sunday of Easter- The Lord is my Shepherd - Or is He? (John 10: 11-18)

I was on the Internet the other day and came across this “Modern Day Psalm.” Initially it struck me as humorous, but then quickly I realized that it contained an unfortunate truth for so many people within its context. It is as follows:

The TV is my Shepard I shall not want,
It makes me lie down on the sofa.

It leads me away from 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.

It’s 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.

This was a parody on Psalm 23, but I am afraid to say that for some of us, it just might ring of an unpleasant truth. What a dreadful way to live, living in a way that leads to death.

But there is another way to live:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

In verdant pastures he gives me repose;

Besides restful waters he leads me;
He refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
For his name’s sake.

Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side

with your rod and your staff
that give me courage. (Ps 23:1-4)

This is a beautiful way to live, a way that leads to life, peace and true happiness.

In the gospel today, we hear of Jesus as the “Good Shepard.” A shepherd is the most important person in the lives of the sheep. By nature, sheep are dumb, they lose their way very easily, they have no sense of orientation; they seem to always look down and don’t care much about their welfare.

If they are not shown where to pasture, they may die for lack of food; if they fall into a ditch, they are not resourceful enough to free themselves, if they get hurt, they don’t heal quickly and need a lot of care, without a shepherd they are doomed. God uses this imagery to show us how careless we are, how materialistic we are, that we prefer to look down on the things of the world instead of looking up into the spiritual world offered by our Good Shepherd.

Without the Holy Spirit we behave like dumb sheep, and we tend to forget that we are made in the image of God. Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. With His rod He will reprimand, with His staff He will pull back those who go astray, in his mercy He will forgive those who do wrong, in his tenderness he will heal those who are hurt, with his word, his flesh and blood, He will feed those who are hungry, because He cares for us. His kingdom is not of this world; it is the kingdom within our hearts, where we have the option to love the One who cares for us by keeping his commandments, or despising him and crucifying him with our ingratitude and our sinfulness.

Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He does not reject the sinner; he looks at him as a shepherd looks at a strayed sheep, He looks for it and when He finds it, he will comfort it and bring it back to Him. In the end He will raise us up on the last day, He will separate the sheep from the goats and will reward the faithful with everlasting life.

The Joy of God is fulfilled when a sinner repents, His joy becomes His glory when we are always close to Him and thank Him and praise Him.

The image of the Good Shepherd was perhaps the favorite early Christian image of our Savior. He is still seeking out the ones who have strayed away, or have been near him. But He needs feet to go where they are, hands to reach out to them, tongues to speak to them his warm words of invitation and welcome. How many inactive Catholics, or people who attend no church, are there on your street, or live near you?

Imagine if on every street there was just one family that visited their neighbors in a friendly, inviting way on behalf of the Catholic Church, to see how they might be helped - or welcomed home? How many tired, stray sheep would experience the arms of the good Shepherd reaching out to lift them up and carry them home. He wants your help……. Isn’t that truly what it means to be a Christian. Not Just Catholic in name, but in actions….

In closing today, I want to mention that This Sunday is Vocations Sunday.

Jesus has always shepherded his people through those to whom, following Peter and the apostles, he has repeated, “Feed my Sheep” (John 21:15-17)

He is still calling young men to the priesthood as shepherds, and young women to consecrated life where they can exercise their genuine femininity of caring for God’s loved one’s. We have to be truly grateful for the ones who listen to His call and are willing, like him, to “lay down their life’” freely. It is, after all, the only life they have. And they give it up, to shepherd his people.

I have always admired the fact that there are young Christians around us who are prepared to think, “well, I do only have one life; But there are others who need that life of mine more than I need it myself.” And they give it. They really are the greatest among us.

Pray that our parish, that your family, will have young men and women of such a quality of love. But don’t just pray: educate your children to love that much. Be always ready to let go of them if they are that special; Never stop them looking to see if God has put a heart that big in them.

Young people: encourage your friends who might be ready to give the gift of themselves. Look into your own heart, and see if you have that much love there. And if you do,

Don’t be afraid to ask the Lord,
“Are you calling Me?”

Don’t be afraid to ask the Lord,
“Are you calling Me?”

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