Easter IV [A] Sunday (May 3) 8 minutes homily in one page (L/20)
Introduction: On this Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Church reminds us of our call to become good shepherds of God’s flock and good sheep of His parishes and invites us to pray for vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life. Both the Old and New Testaments use the image of a Shepherd and His flock to describe the unique relationship of God with Israel and of the Christ with Christians. Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading is taken from St. Peter’s first sermon, given on the day of Pentecost. He reminds his Jewish listeners that they have crucified their true Shepherd. Hence, they need to receive forgiveness for their sin by getting baptized in the name of Jesus and acknowledging the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior, as Jesus had commanded. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 23), introduces Yahweh as the Good Shepherd of Israel Who cares for us, His sheep, providing for our needs. In the second reading, Peter encourages the suffering Christians to follow in the footsteps of their Good Shepherd, Jesus, the “suffering servant,” realizing the truth that Jesus’ suffering and death have enabled them to become more fully the children of God. In today’s Gospel, two brief parables show us Jesus, the first, as a selfless, caring “shepherd” who provides for his sheep protection and life itself, and the second, as our unique gateway (“sheep gate”), to eternal salvation. That is, besides guiding his flock to Eternal Life as the Good Shepherd, Jesus is himself the gateway to Eternal Life.
Life Messages: 1) We need to become good shepherds and good leaders: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, and caregivers, among others, are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time, talents and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties toward their children, giving them good example and instruction and training them in Christian principles. 2) We need to become 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 our shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice. b) Receive the spiritual food given by our pastors through our regular participation in the Holy Mass, our frequenting of the Sacraments, and our participation in the prayer services, renewal programs and missions they offer. c) Cooperate with our pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by offering them loving, constructive correction when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties, and always by praying for them d) Actively participate in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations. 3) We need to pray for vocations.
EASTER IV (May 3) Sunday: Acts 2:14, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
Homily starter anecdotes: 1) Pope St. John Paul II, the good shepherd. The most beautiful and meaningful comment on the life and the legacy of our late Holy Father, Pope St. John Paul II, was made by the famous televangelist, Billy Graham. In a TV interview, he said: “He lived like his Master, the Good Shepherd, and he died like his Master, the Good Shepherd.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd and explains what he does for his sheep.
2) Moses, the shepherd-leader: The Jews had a lovely legend to explain why God chose Moses to be the leader of His people. “When Moses was feeding the sheep of his father-in-law in the wilderness, a young lamb ran away. Moses followed it until it reached a ravine, where it found a well to drink from. When Moses got up to it, he said: `I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be weary.’ He took the lamb on his shoulders and carried it back. Then God said: `Because you have shown pity in leading back one of a flock belonging to another man, you shall lead my flock Israel.'”
3) Showing the way: In San Salvador on March 24, 1980, an assassin killed Archbishop Oscar Romero with a single shot to the heart while he was saying Mass. Only a few minutes before, Archbishop Romero had finished a hope-filled homily in which he urged the people to serve one another. Since Archbishop Romero was demanding human rights for his people under oppression, he knew that his life was in danger. Still he persisted in speaking publicly against tyranny and for freedom. He once told newspapermen that even if his enemies killed him, he would rise again among his people. Today, good shepherds who lay down their lives include husbands and wives who can’t do enough for each other to demonstrate their commitment to each other; parents who make countless sacrifices for the good of their children; teachers who spend untold hours instructing the weak students; doctors and nurses who work untiringly, spending themselves to care for their patients; employers who share profits with their workers; politicians who unselfishly promote the common good of their voters, and parishioners who generously support their parish community (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). Full movie: https://youtu.be/Sm1VA6XMpHU?list=PLdaZy-qwbWMbGtpSrJTORzW97eha-Og06 (parts i-iv)
Introduction: Today is called Good Shepherd Sunday, and, appropriately, this day is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Today, the Church calls us to reflect on the meaning of God’s call for each of us and to pray for vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life, because the entire Christian community shares the responsibility for fostering vocations. Both the Old and New Testaments use the image of a Shepherd and His flock to describe the unique relationship of God with Israel and Christ with Christians.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading is taken from St. Peter’s first sermon, given on Pentecost. Here, he exhorts his listeners, Jewish people gathered for the Feast of Weeks – the “Sabbath” of the seven weeks that have elapsed since Passover — to know beyond any doubt that the One they have allowed to be crucified is the true Shepherd, whom God has made both Lord and Messiah. Peter then proclaims that the proper response to the Good News about Jesus is to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” and thus to become members of the Good Shepherd’s flock. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, they will receive forgiveness for their sins. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 23), introduces Yahweh as the Good Shepherd of Israel and describes all of the things the Lord does for us, His sheep, in providing for our needs. The second reading, taken from Peter’s First Letter to the Church, continues the “shepherd” imagery. Peter encourages the suffering Christians to follow in footsteps of their shepherd (“suffering servant”), and to remember that they have been claimed by him. Peter also explains how Jesus, the innocent sufferer, was a model of patience and trust in God, and he reminds us that it is Jesus’ suffering which has enabled us to become more fully children of God. In today’s Gospel, two brief parables about sheep reveal Jesus as our unique means to salvation. He is the selfless, caring “shepherd” who provides protection and life itself, and he is the “sheep gate,” the one gateway to eternal life.
The first reading (Acts 2:14a, 36-41), explained: This text gives us a summary of the whole Gospel message, telling us Who Jesus is, how he saves us, and how we should respond. Peter tells the people: “You crucified your God and Messiah, but he has risen from death and offers you forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The conclusion of the sermon sums up the whole kerygma in a single Christological formula: “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified.” The titles “Lord” and “Christ” have great significance. “Lord” was a title reserved for God alone. When early Christians realized that God had been made flesh in the person of Jesus, they dared to give him this Divine title. “Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” meaning the “anointed one,” or “King.” He is the long-awaited successor to King David, and the fulfillment of all the hopes based on David’s glorious reign.
The second reading: 1 Peter 2:20b-25 explained: The “shepherd” reference in the last verse of this reading from Peter’s epistle links it to the day’s Gospel. “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd, the guardian of your souls” (vv. 24-25). Peter then makes three contrasts in this part of his epistle: a) between what Jesus suffered and his surprising responses: “…insulted, he returned no insult;” “when he suffered, he did not threaten”(v. 23); b) between Jesus and us: HE bore OUR sins; by HIS wounds WE are healed (v. 24); c) between our former lost condition and our graced present state.
Gospel exegesis: The context: Jesus was not talking to his followers. He was addressing the Pharisees. They were accusing him of being from the devil because he had healed a blind man on the Sabbath. His response was that he was the Good Shepherd. He was not like the hired hands who collected their pay for watching the sheep but abandoned the sheep in their time of need because these hired men didn’t really care about the sheep. So, the Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus meant Jesus was claiming to be God! They also knew he was contrasting himself to them — the hired hands entrusted with the care of God’s people but caring only for themselves.
Yahweh, the Good Shepherd. For a long time, the Jewish people had used the Good Shepherd image for God. The usage goes all the way back to Genesis 49:24, which says that Joseph was saved “By the power of the mighty one of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, the God of your father …” Such imagery was used by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah, and of course by David in his Psalms. The psalmist addresses Yahweh as his Shepherd. Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd; nothing shall I want.” (Compare also Psalms 77:20, 79:13, 97:7). “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Ps.95:7). “Like a shepherd, He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Isaiah 40:11). Ezekiel foretells what the Messiah will do as Good Shepherd. “I myself will tend My sheep …I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34: 15-16). In short, God is the ultimate Shepherd of the people, providing guidance, sustenance and protection (Psalm 23), and He intends their Kings and other leaders to be their shepherds as well.
The Good Shepherd image in the New Testament: In Palestine, the word “shepherd” was a synonym for selfless love, sincerity, commitment, and sacrificial service. Hence, Jesus selects it as the most fitting term to denote his life and mission (Mt 2:6, 9:36, 18:12-14, 26:31; Mk 6:34, 14:27; Lk 12:32, 15:4; I Pt 2:25, 5:2-4; Heb 13:20). The prophets pointed out the main duties of the Good Shepherd: 1) The Good Shepherd leads the sheep to the pasture, provides them with food and water and protects them. In Palestine, the shepherd went in front and the sheep followed behind. 2) He guarded them, not allowing them to get lost in the desert or become victims of robbers and wild animals – preventive vigilance. 3) He went in search of the lost ones and healed their wounds – protective vigilance. 4) He was ready to surrender his life for his sheep – redemptive vigilance.
The first parable in today’s Gospel: The first part of today’s Gospel contrasts Jesus, the true Shepherd, with fake shepherds, thieves and robbers. Jesus gives us warning against false shepherds and false teachers in his Church. Jesus’ love and concern for each of us must be accepted with trust and serenity because he alone is our Shepherd, and no one else deserves our undivided commitment. As a true Shepherd, he leads his sheep, giving them the food and protection only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can provide, and he protects us and leads us to true happiness.
The second parable. During the time of Jesus in the land of Palestine, the shepherds would bring the sheep down from the hills in the evening to protect them at night when the wolves and mountain lions were hunting their prey. At night, the shepherds would gather their sheep together and lead them into large pens or sheepfolds which had five-foot-high stone walls. The shepherds put the prickly briars along the top of the wall to prevent the mountain lions and wolves from jumping over it. Now, the doorway was about two feet wide, a narrow space in the front wall facing a fire of wood lit outside at night. The shepherd himself would sleep there in the small opening of the stone wall facing the burning fire with his club and staff. If any mountain lion came, the shepherd would fight it off with his weapons, his short stocky club or his long-pointed staff. Thus, literally and actually, the shepherd himself was the door.
In this parable Jesus compares himself to the Shepherd and to the Gate. The first title represents His ownership because Shepherd is the true owner of the sheep. The second title represents His leadership. Jesus is the Gate, the only Way in or out. He is the One Mediator between God and mankind. All must go through Him, through His Church, in order to arrive in Heaven. By identifying Himself with the sheep-gate, Jesus gives the assurance that whoever enters the pen through Him will be safe and well cared-for. Jesus is the living Door to His Father’s house and Father’s family, the Door into the Father’s safety and into the fullness of life. It is through Jesus, the Door, that we come into the sheepfold where we are protected from the wolves of life. There is safety and security in being a Christian. There is a spiritual, emotional and psychological security and safety when we live within Jesus and his Church, within the protectiveness of Christ, Christian friends and a Christian family.
Life Messages: 1) We need to be good shepherds and good leaders: Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, and caregivers, among others, are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time, talents and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties toward their children, giving them good example and sound religious instruction. Above all, parents should pray for their children and, by living according to sound Christian moral principles, show their children how to do the same.
2) We need to 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 our shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice. b) Receive the spiritual food given by our pastors by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments and by participating in prayer services, renewal programs and missions as far as we are able to do so. c) Cooperate with our pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by offering them loving correcting and constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties and, always, by praying for them. d) Participate actively in the work of various councils, ministries and parish associations.
3) We need to pray for good pastors and vocations. The Church uses this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations to encourage vocations to the ministerial priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life. All Christians need to share in the responsibility of fostering these vocations: a) The faith community must continuously pray for vocations both in the Church and in their families. b) Since good priests, deacons and people embracing the consecrated life come from good Christian families, all Christian parents need to live their faith in Christ on a daily basis by leading exemplary lives as parents and by fostering good relationships with, and among, their children. c) Parents need to respect and encourage a child who shows an interest in becoming a priest or deacon or of entering upon a consecrated life. Parents need to encourage their children, including their teenagers and young adults, to participate actively in the children’s and youth activities in the parish, like Sunday school, children’s clubs, and youth associations. They also need to encourage and actively support them in becoming altar servants, gift-bearers, lectors and ministers of hospitality. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us begin, or continue, especially in these most stressful times in and for the Church, local and universal, to pray earnestly for continued conversion and perseverance in the Faith for our bishops, priests, deacons, those living a consecrated life, and all of the laity, for we are One Body and what one member suffers, all suffer.
Jokes of the Week: Modern shepherds: Four pastors, 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 tithing contribution.” Another gasp was heard, and the third clergyman spoke up. “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 monger. I wonder how I would not share these personal problems with my wife.”
2) “I guess you must be a sheep dog.” A pastor was teaching the 23rd Psalm in the Sunday school. He told the children about sheep, that they weren’t smart and needed lots of guidance, and that a shepherd’s job was to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals and keep them from wandering off. He pointed to the little children in the room and said that they were the sheep and needed lots of guidance. Then the pastor put his hands out to the side, palms up in a dramatic gesture, and with raised eyebrows said to the children, “If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?” He was pretty sure that all the kids would point out to him as the shepherd. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young girl said, “Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd.” The young pastor, obviously caught by surprise, said to the little girl, “Well then, who am I?” The girl frowned thoughtfully and then said with a shrug, “I guess you must be a sheep dog.”
3) Pastor’s vacation: It’s been said that every pastor ought to have six weeks of vacation each year, because if he is a really good shepherd, he deserves it; and if he is not a very good shepherd, his congregation deserves it.
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK:
- Catholic search engine: http://www.cath.com/
- Theology Library: http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/
- The 40 top Catholic Web Sites: http://www.catholic-church.org/cid/top40.html 4) Video of the Canonization of Sts. Pope John XXIII & Pope John Paul II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4GlC0C2Wpc&feature=player_detailpage
- Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
28 Additional anecdotes
1) “May I see your driver’s license, please?” 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. But 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 “Eleanor Rigby,” an early song 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, by name, and loves us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
2) Moral evil and its consequences: In 1891 the Irish wit, poet and dramatist, Oscar Wilde published The Picture of Dorian Gray, an intriguing fable about moral evil and its consequences. According to the story, an artist named Basil Hallward painted a portrait of the central character, Dorian Gray, and gave it to the young man as a gift. An excellent likeness, the painting captured the handsome youth and goodness of Gray, who did not exhibit the painting but locked it away in an upstairs room of his home. As time passed, it became clear that the painting was more than a work of art. Although Gray’s physical appearance did not age or change in any way with the passing years, the painting became a mirror, as it were, registering the progressive moral disintegration of his soul. Gray, who had squandered his life in unrepentant evil, eventually showed the incredibly altered portrait to Hallward who recoiled in horror, remarking that “the rotting of a corpse in a watery grave” was “not so fearful a sight.” When Peter and the other early disciples first preached the Good News of salvation, their message centered on the figure of the crucified Christ, who suffered, died for the sins of humankind, and then was raised to glory. Like Dorian Gray, sinners are called to look upon the cross of Jesus as a self-portrait, to see therein a mirror of the effects of their own sinfulness and need, and a picture of the cost God paid for human complicity with evil. But the visage of the crucified Jesus is far more than a reproach; it is also a revelation of the love of God for us sinful people. It was this dual realization that caused Peter’s listeners to be “deeply shaken,” and moved to ask, “What are we to do?” (vs. 37). Duly convinced of their own sin and of God’s immeasurable love, they were open to accept the good news and to alter their lives accordingly. (Sanchez Archives). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
3) 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! (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
4) “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 all his sheep by name. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
5) “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); from 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
5) 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.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
7) “I know the Psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” A famous actor was the guest of honor at a social gathering. As people gathered around, they asked the actor to recite excerpts from various literary works. He obliged and did so brilliantly. Finally, an elderly pastor asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor hesitated at first and then agreed on one condition. The pastor would return the favor. The actor’s recitation was brilliant and eloquent. People responded to the actor with lengthy applause. The pastor’s rendition was feeble and frail. But when the pastor finished, there was not a dry eye in the house. Finally, the actor broke the silence with these words: “I know the Psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Do you know the Shepherd? Have you found Him to be good? Have you discovered He is all you need? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
8) “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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
9) “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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
10) “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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
11) 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 gave his life. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
12) 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.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
13) Big Brother is watching us: Ever since 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
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 photo of 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
15) Hannah and Her Sisters. A recent movie by Woody Allen was titled, Hannah and Her Sisters. The movie 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 the part 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 may 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.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
17) Alexander, the shepherd of soldiers. When 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
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.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
19) 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.
(I heard this parody on Psalm 23 in a homily broadcast on EWTN on March 18 2002, Fr. Tommy Lane)(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
20) Follow My Voice: On September 11, 2001, the Pentagon was slammed by a hijacked airliner. People were trapped in the flaming building. A police officer ran inside and kept repeating in the darkness, ”Follow my voice.” Six people did. They owe their lives to that voice. We know the popular child’s game called, “Follow the Leader.” Do you remember when we were children and used to play “Simon says”? Whatever “Simon says” we do, because, Simon is the leader of that game. — At some point in our lives, we all pick out leaders to follow, some good, some bad. Depending on whom we choose, we are led well or astray. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” But hearing Jesus’ voice is very difficult in the current environment of our lives. Each day hundreds of other “shepherds” are calling our names for our attention. They offer formulas for health, wealth and happiness. They offer formulas for solving problems, getting along in relationships, raising children, avoiding [trouble], becoming popular and getting ahead. (John Pichappily in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
21) “I am the gate”: In his book The Holy Land, John Kellman describes a field pen. It consists of a circular stone wall about four feet high with an opening in it. Kellman says that one day a Holy land tourist saw a field pen near Hebron. He asked a shepherd sitting nearby, “Where’s the gate for your pen?” The shepherd said, “I am the gate.” The shepherd then told the tourist how he herded his flock into the pen each night and then lay down across the entrance. No sheep could leave the pen and no wild animal could enter it, without stepping over his body and awakening him. (John Kellman, The Holy Land; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
22) “She thinks I’m real!” There is a story of a grandmother, a mother, and a little boy, three generations, who went into a restaurant, and sat down to order. The waitress took the grandmother’s order, the mother’s order, and then turned to the little boy and said “What would you like?” The mother immediately said “Oh, I’ll order for him.” The waitress without being overly rude ignored the mother and again said to the little boy “What would you like?” Glancing over at his mother to see how she was reacting to this, the little boy said “Uh, uh, I’d like a hamburger.” “How would you like your hamburger? With mustard and pickles and the works?” asked the waitress. With his mouth dropping open in amazement now, he said “The works, the works.” The waitress went over to the hatch, and called out the grandmother’s order and the mother’s order. Then in a very loud voice she said, “And a hamburger with the works” The little boy turned to his mother in utter amazement and said “Mommy, mommy, she thinks I’m real!” — God treats each one of us as real people. He takes our needs and requests seriously! (Jack McArdle; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
23) Watching over You: Cheryl Cassiday was a Registered Nurse. One afternoon, she arrived at the Arts Center to pick her daughter Rachel from her dance lesson. She usually used to run another errand before picking up her daughter- procure milk. On that day as she turned that corner, she changed her mind and did not go to the milk booth. This decision saved her daughter’s life and eight other lives as well. Instead of waiting in the car as she usually did, that day, Mrs. Cassiday went into the dance studio. There she found her daughter along with eight others overcome by carbon-monoxide poisoning. With the help of the family across the street, she was able to pull out each one from the building and revive them. Later referring to the watchfulness of God, Cheryl very finely concluded: “Somebody was watching over these girls besides me!” — It was Jesus our Good Shepherd. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
24) “I Am the Door”: George Adam Smith, the 19th century biblical scholar, tells of traveling one day in the Holy Land and coming across a shepherd and his sheep. He fell into conversation with him and the man showed him the fold into which the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls, with a way in. Smith asked him, “This is where they go at night?” “Yes,” said the shepherd, “and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe.” “But there is no door,” said Smith. “I am the door,” said the shepherd. He was not a Christian man and wasn’t speaking in the language of the New Testament. He was speaking from an Arab shepherd’s viewpoint. Smith looked and him and asked, “What do you mean you are the door?” “When the light has gone,” said the shepherd, “and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
25) Effective Leadership of a good shepherd: There is a funny story about an ecumenical crusade that was being held in a large city. Every imaginable denomination was in attendance for this unprecedented event. One afternoon the gathering was in session when all of a sudden a secretary rushed in shouting, “The building’s on fire! The building’s on fire!” Confusion reigned as each Church group came together and did what came natural: The Methodists gathered in the corner to pray. The Baptists cried, “Where’s the water?” The Quakers quietly praised God for the blessings that fire brings. The Lutherans posted a notice on the door declaring that the fire was evil. The Roman Catholics passed a plate to cover the damages. The Unitarians reasoned that the fire would burn itself out if just given the chance. The Congregationalists shouted, “Every man for himself.” The Fundamentalists proclaimed, “It’s the vengeance of God.” The Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out. The Christian Scientists concluded that there was no real fire. The Presbyterians appointed a chairperson to appoint a committee to look into the matter and make a written report. And the Church secretary grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out. (Tom Lacey, Unleashing the Lord in Your Life. Reflection by: Sister Patricia Wormann, OP) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
26) Amazing grace given to a lost sheep: John Newton was the son of an English Sea captain. When he was only ten his mother died and he went to sea with his father. At 17 he rebelled against his father, left his ship and began living a wildlife. Eventually John took a job on a cargo ship that carried slaves from Africa to America. He was promoted rapidly and soon became captain of the ship. Newton never worried whether slave trade was right or wrong. One night a violent storm blew up at sea and the waves grew to the size of mountains. They picked up Newton’s ship and threw it around like a toy. Everyone on board was filled with panic. Then Newton did something he had never done since leaving his father’s ship. He prayed. Shouting at the top of his voice he said, “God, if you will only save us, I promise to be your slave forever.” God heard his prayer and the ship survived. When Newton reached land, he kept his promise and quit the slave trade. Later he studied in the seminary and was ordained pastor of a small church in Olney, England. There he won fame as a preacher and composer of hymns. One of the most moving hymns Newton wrote is the one that praised God for his conversion. He called it “Amazing Grace.” The hymn begins “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see….” (Adapted from Al Rogers’ story of John Newton; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
27) Pregnant giraffe from New York State: I have been obsessed for the past month or so with April the giraffe from New York State. Her pregnancy has been followed by thousands of people around the world on a webcam on Facebook. (http://www.newyorkupstate.com/central-ny/2017/04/april_the_giraffe_has_a_baby_-.html ) By the calf’s birth on Holy Saturday, I knew so much more about giraffes then I could ever imagine. I think what touched me most was the loving relationship that April had with her caretaker, Alyssa. When Alyssa came in, it was obvious that she was special to April and April to Alyssa. Alyssa would pet her, kiss her belly and have her favorite treats. The giraffe would quickly approach and nuzzle near Alyssa as soon as she arrived. It reminded me too, of my 16+ years relationship with my cat, Theo. I know him very well and he knows me. We eat, sleep and spend time together. He actually models for me what it means to be contemplative. I give these examples because we might not be as familiar with sheep as were the people of Jesus’ day, but we do understand the image that Jesus invites us to see. Jesus invites us to intimacy with him and with those whom we encounter on our journey. (Sister Patricia Wormann, OP) http://caldwellop.org/preaching-the-word-3/preaching-the-word/ (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
28) GKC parable: When you touch someone, unless that person actively rejects your love and forgiveness, he or she is relating to the Body of Christ. And this is true even beyond death: If someone close to you dies in a state which, externally at least, has him or her at odds with the visible Church, your love and forgiveness will continue to bind that person to the Body of Christ and will continue to offer forgiveness to that individual, even after death. GK Chesterton once expressed this in a parable: “A man who was entirely careless of spiritual affairs died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends. His business agent went down to the gates of hell to see if there was any chance of bringing him back. But though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded. His priest also went and argued: ‘He was not really a bad fellow; given time he would have matured. Let him out, please!’ The gate remained stubbornly shut against all their voices. Finally, his mother came; she did not beg for his release. Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan: ‘Let me in.’ Immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges. For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.” (Fr. Ron Rolheiser). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 25) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A 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 Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604