Homily – May 3, 2020

IV Sunday of Easter
Year A

You might find this hard to believe but I have been struggling to find the right words for my homily this morning… I know … I’m usually not one for a shortage of words! But maybe its been difficult because this last six weeks have been difficult. Maybe this situation is beginning to make me weary – as it is for many of you as well. I am sure that many of us, like me are just getting a little antsy to get back to normal. But yet there is a connection between today’s Gospel and how we are currently living…

Today the Church unofficially celebrates “Good Shepherd Sunday” – appropriately named since the readings of the Mass today all have this shepherd theme, including the Gospel. This image of Christ as the Good Shepherd was an important one to the early Church. It was one of the very first depictions of Jesus – portrayed as a shepherd with a lamb on His shoulders – found in the catacombs of ancient Rome. This image of Christ as a shepherd, particularly found in the era of the early Church strikes me deeply. The Church at its earliest beginnings knew nothing of peace – the disciples were constantly being persecuted, mistreated, misunderstood … martyred. When the Acts of the Apostles does speak of peace, it does not last very long. Yet, in those troublesome times, this was the image of Christ they portrayed – as a Good Shepherd leading His lambs to pasture… to peace, to rest… As opposed to those who are depicted as “thieves and robbers” who come to steal and destroy, Jesus uses the language of a shepherd to assure His followers that through Him they would find life – and life in abundance … that through Him they would find nourishment – food for the body and soul … that through Him they would find protection, guidance, and peace … that He would lead them in spite of the danger that lurked in the shadows…

Friends … the image and message of the Good Shepherd speaks loudly to me today. We are all living in a state of isolation, quarantine … many have lost jobs, have fallen ill… many are struggling in mind, body and soul … and in these very strange and difficult times, many also wonder where is God. While we are not being persecuted physically as a Church – though the Church still experiences grave persecutions all over the world, including right here at home – it does not mean that we are not to find God… it does not mean that we are alone and that God has all of a sudden abandoned us … No… it means that we look to Jesus in this image of Him as a Good Shepherd who protects us from harm, who walks ahead of us and the dangers that are out there … it means that in this time of difficulty we can still find peacefulness because He is among us.

What exactly do I means by this? So often I hear one of the complaints against Christianity is that it is far too restrictive of our personal freedom. That there are too many rules to follow … I recently came across a friend’s post on Facebook where he wrote that: “freedom is not a license to do what we want but the power to do what is good. If we abuse that power we end up enslaved to our own selfishness.” Friends … the sheep, following the shepherd, listening to his call, his voice, allowing him to lead to them to pasture … they are free … And it is the same for each of us … Faith in Jesus Christ, hearing Him, listening to Him, following His directive and the directives of the Church makes us free – free to do good. No amount of quarantine can take that freedom away from us … material poverty cannot take that away … If Christ is in us, if we are following Him… we are free and at peace. This is an interior freedom, an interior peace … and no one can take that from us… Be at peace and let the Good Shepherd lead and protect you…

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