07 May 20174 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - John 10:1-10

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. This parable has lost impact in our urban society. A city kid in a college Scripture class told his professor, "I don't get any kicks being called a sheep. They're stupid and are led around." A farm boy didn't buy it: "I've seen a herd of sheep running wild. And could they move! If my father hadn't called to them and corralled them, they would have torn up our whole place." The city boy stayed quiet. To control sheep the shepherd must be Superman. City slickers need not apply. I was traveling through the Holy Land.

I saw a shepherd with his large flock. I checked him out. Neither of us could speak the other's language. We didn't have to really. He was all muscle. The staff he was carrying in his hand would make a serious impression on my head. I felt like the 100 pound weakling that everyone kicks sand on at the beach. If there was going to be trouble, I wanted him on my side. Better, I would be standing right behind him. God's image as Shepherd did not originate with Jesus. It preceded Him by centuries. One finds the figure of speech strewn throughout the Old Testament like a common pebble. You will discover it in the Books of Zechariah, Isaiah, Ezechiel, and Jeremiah for openers. And don't forget the celebrated 23rd Psalm which is our Responsorial Psalm today: "The Lord is my shepherd." The early Christians enjoyed the shepherd analogy. Matthew and Luke as well as today's John applied it often to their Leader. Among the earliest pictures, perhaps the earliest, we find of Christ on catacomb walls is the young Jesus dressed as a shepherd with a sheep over His shoulders.

It remains ever popular. St Augustine used the shepherd analogy for the apostles themselves in the fifth century in The City of God: "The first holy men were shepherds." A lot of us feel boxed in by life. We are unwilling characters in a nihilistic Jean-Paul Sartre drama. Our options we tell ourselves are limited. There is no way out. Consequently clinical depression is becoming an increasing phenomenon among us. Along comes Jesus the Shepherd to tell us, "I am the gate." In another spot, He repeats the point, "I have opened a gate in front of you." If we are as sharp as we say, we will use the Shepherd as the way to make our break-out into green Elysian fields. We will run through His gate, bang it behind us, and never look back. (Joseph Donders) Secondly, shepherds know their sheep by name as John tells us today. Marry that thought to the scriptural report that God writes the names of each one in the palm of His hand.

Imagine your name on the lips of God Himself in His role as the Shepherd as He calls to you. If I am going to be anybody's sheep, then let it be Christ's, a certified 2000 year old winner. I do not wish to be forever a nine digit number that can only be traced by a Big Brother computer. I want a Christ who knows my name, my features, and my requirements better than the back of His hand. The sweetest sound in the world, said the monk, is the sound of your own name. Compare that to the guy who says to you for the fourth time, "Sorry, but I forget your name again." (Donders) I buy into the Good Shepherd analogy. I need a strong pull in the right direction. I've been dumber than many sheep. There have even been occasions when I wish I had that ring right through my nose. I wish Jesus had been pulling it. I need to hear His strong voice I need a shepherd to lead me. Unhappily I need one who will even kick me in the tail. I don't need a general barking orders and staying behind the battle line. Conscience is the e-mail your head gets from the Shepherd, saying to you, "Follow my voice. You have nothing to lose but your sins." (Billy Graham) So, the Lamb who died to save us is also the Shepherd who lives to lead us. Christianity remains the religion of the incredible, the religion of the astonishing, the religion of the breathtaking. (Unknown) Incidentally, a friend said to me, "Someone told you about the Good Shepherd. Have you told anyone lately?" I have. I've just told you. But have you?
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter: The Voice of the Lord Know that He, the Lord, is God. He made us, we belong to Him, we are his people, the sheep of His flock.
From Psalm 100

We are His. In these words from Psalm 100 we pray in poetry the message of today's Gospel, a message given to us by our Lord centuries after the psalm was written. We are His people, the sheep of His flock. The sheep hear the voice of their shepherd, and follow him. He protects them. We follow the Lord. He protects us. There are many voices in the world calling us to follow. We have to listen carefully for the voices that are coming from the Lord and for the voices that are not the voice of our shepherd. There is the voice that says, "You can do this or that now. Everyone is doing this. Join in. What makes you think that you are different?" Or, perhaps the voice says, "Times have changed. Get with the modern way." This voice is tempting us to destruction, self destruction. If we follow it, we wander away from Christian morality in order to be part of the world. Soon, we realize that we have wandered away from our own happiness. That happens when we follow a voice that is not the voice of our Shepherd. There is the voice that says, "In life, it is dog eat dog. This is the way of the world. You are either stepping on someone on your way up, or you are getting stepped on. You are either raising yourself up, or you are falling down." This is quite obvious in the business world, but this voice is not limited to the business world. You hear this voice in wherever there are people seeking to gain some form of authority over others. This could be in the neighborhoods. You hear this voice in school. There are cliques in school where membership demands looking down at others and saying mean things about others in order to fit in. There are groups in the neighborhood association where people use others to rise to some form of authority, be it political or social. There are voices within ourselves that tell us that we are not good enough. These are not the voice of the Lord. They are the voice of evil, telling us not to get up from mud we might fall into, but instead, stay there in the filth. Sometimes this voice is due to an addiction that raises its head when least expected. The girl or guy has done well avoiding porn, drugs, or alcohol and then he or she falls and falls hard. Something within says, "Give up." But the voice of the Lord says, "No, we can beat this together. Don't give up. Get up." There is one voice that we need to listen to. That is the voice of the Lord. This is the voice within us that says as Paul put it so beautifully in Philippians 4:13: "I can conquer all things in Him who empowers me." This is the voice that tells us that we are not too weak to live the Christian life. It is the voice that tells us to trust in our Lord. It is the voice that tells us that Christ is calling us to new adventures in holiness, to new heights, to a new relationship with Him. A few years ago a contemporary Christian Group out of Australia called Hillsong United published a meditation on the voice of the Lord. The song was based on the voice of the Lord calling Peter out of the boat of comfort and into abandonment to the Lord. Let me read you two of its potent lyrics.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine.
© CCLI License #2368115
I am Yours and You are mine. We are His. How can anything in the world surpass that? We belong to God, and He belongs to us. That is the joy of the Gospel. There are predators out there, trying to lure us, His sheep. We know their voices and we know where they are trying to take us. We also know the voice of God. And we know where He wants to take us. We pray today for the courage to follow our shepherd.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Easter
Life in Christ Week 4: Gratitude (May 7, 2017)

Message: We thank Jesus for being Shepherd of our souls and for giving us visible shepherds. On this Fourth Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday - we continue to focus on Life in Christ. Our theme this week is gratitude. We are grateful for our Good Shepherd. As we sang, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want." Archbishop Sartain tells a humorous story about how much we have received and how little gratitude we have: A grandmother takes her grandson to the beach. The boy goes out in a boat which tips over. The grandmother starts shouting for help. No one comes. Finally she prays, "Please, God, send someone to rescue my grandchild." As if out of nowhere a man appears, dives in the water and brings the boy gasping to shore.

The grandmother starts straightening out the boy's wet clothes, then stops, looks up and says, "He had a hat!" We smile because we recognize our own selves. God has given us everything, more than we deserve. Instead of constant gratitude we tend to get upset when one thing goes wrong. Getting stuck in traffic, a negative comment, a disappointing meal. This Sunday God invites us to reflect on how much we have freely received. The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. Our Life in Christ involves gratitude for the Shepherd of our souls. Jesus, the Shepherd of our souls, gives us visible shepherds - the pope and bishops.

As we saw last week they have an indispensable role in our walk with Jesus. Jesus walks with us in the Scriptures and Eucharist and through those shepherds. Next week I will say something about how Jesus walks with us in difficult circumstances - like we have experienced with the death of Fr. Valencia. For today we recognize Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We thank him for being Shepherd of our souls and for giving us visible shepherds - the pope and bishops - and our local shepherd, Archbishop Sartain. Through the Annual Catholic Appeal we support the work which Archbishop Sartain supervises in Western Washington. With a spirit of gratitude, I ask you to listen to a second testimony about the Appeal. Please give your full attention to _______________.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Classic John 10:1-10

Gospel Summary
In this gospel passage, Jesus draws upon imagery associated with sheep herding. The people to whom he spoke were well aware of the practice of herding sheep into a protective corral during the night so that they would not become easy victims of wild animals. They were also aware that robbers could climb over the low wall and steal the sheep. The true shepherd does not need to do this because the sheep are entrusted to his care and he has access to them through the door of the corral. In the spiritual sense intended by Jesus, the thieves and robbers are those shepherds (pastors, counselors, friends) who claim to be concerned about the sheep (parishioners, anyone of us) but who deceive them by offering quick fixes, which promise salvation without the need of painful personal conversion.

Sheep have always had a reputation for being soewhat naïve and easily confused just as we humans, while very cautious in some areas, are often gullible when it comes to spiritual matters. Jesus then changes the imagery and calls himself the door to the corral. This means that it is only through the door of his teaching that one can find true salvation. In the same sense, he calls himself "the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). His is the only trustworthy way because he teaches the only reliable truth which leads to true and lasting life. Life Implications We are great believers in salesmanship and we rely on salesmen even though we know that some of them inflate or misrepresent the benefits of the products they offer to us.

This is true also when the product is the most important thing we can imagine, namely, everlasting life and happiness. We are constantly bombarded with promises of eternal salvation without the need to deal with personal problems or deficiencies. We are vulnerable to such offers because we yearn for that kind of security and because these promises are often packaged in very attractive wrappings. We are told, for example, that if we go through certain external rituals or say certain special prayers we will find salvation in spite of our attachment to selfish behavior. Or we may be told that reaching an emotional pitch of fervor, which cannot be maintained, will nonetheless guarantee our future happiness. When Jesus says that he alone is the true shepherd and that he alone is the door to security for the sheep, he is telling us that it is only his teaching of unselfish love that will lead us to true life and happiness.

Prayers and rituals and fervor are wonderful and necessary, but only when they lead to real conversion from selfish tendencies to genuine concern for others. Being converted in this way will involve the painful process of facing the truth about destructive addictions and being willing to seek help in dealing with them. It will also mean being honest about one’s prejudices and striving with God’s help to escape from their dangerous influence. But most of all, it will mean trying to be a caring, thoughtful, generous person. This is the path on which the good shepherd leads us for he has come, not to deceive us, but that we "might have life and have it more abundantly" (v.10). Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Modern Lectionary 49,
Gospel: John 14: 1-12

"They were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, my brothers?’ Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37-38). The first reading startles us with the immediate response of the people in Jerusalem to Peter’s preaching—it stands in contrast to the presumed way in which many of us regard our faith, even if we truly hold it dear. It is implicit and always there, and in a society that is still largely structured around Judeo-Christian principles it rarely requires us to do anything that would strike our fellow citizens as remarkable. But not so with these folks gathered for Pentecost (the feast being celebrated in Jerusalem when Peter gives his speech).

They are deeply moved, to the point of actually making a religious conversion: "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day” (Acts 2:41). Would we have done so? Would we have so readily heeded the call to faith in the risen Lord were it the very first time we had heard the call? It is easy to live the faith when it is part of the fabric of our culture and family, but had we stood in the assembly with Peter and the others that day in Jerusalem would we have been among those baptized? We can only speculate really, no one can say for sure what they would have done in that setting. Nonetheless, thinking of the situation that unfolded in the first reading reminds us of the Good Shepherd whom we meet in the gospel.

The same Lord whom Peter proclaimed and in whose name three thousand people were baptized that day in Jerusalem is revealed to us as a shepherd who protects his sheep, "I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture,” and as the shepherd who is willing to give everything for his flock: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:9, 11). Nowhere in this gospel passage does Jesus say that he will discriminate as to whether his sheep readily accepted him in a moment of dramatic conversion or whether they only recognized him through the habits and ingrained beliefs gained through many years of life.

If we are like one of the eager crowd in Jerusalem or a Christian believer of many generations he accepts us all, and guards us as a shepherd guards his flock. The Psalm speaks of the Lord as a shepherd too, and here "the Lord" as it is spoken by the Psalmist indicates not Jesus but the Father, the Lord God of Israel. Whether in the days of Israel of old or in the time of Christian revelation God always seeks out his children, protecting and guiding them into verdant pastures and leading them to restful waters, no matter how they came to belief. Some do not like the language in these passages which seems to compare people to sheep in an unfavorable way, as though the faithful are excessively docile or easily led like sheep. Some especially were put off by Pope Francis’ remarks some time ago about priests needing "to take on the smell of the sheep”. But in the final analysis this parable is not about us but about God, acting in Christ, who is truly our Good Shepherd and faithful Sheep Gate, willing to welcome into his good pasture even those who arrive at the eleventh hour. Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The first reading and the Gospel text chosen for our Sunday liturgies are usually connected in some way but today this does not at first sight appear to be the case. We are given an extract from the speech Peter made to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost in which we are told that about three thousand were added to their number. The Gospel text is the first part of chapter ten of John’s Gospel telling us about the Good Shepherd. The first reading is a speech given by the Apostles to the crowd in which they explain what happened to Jesus and with a plea for the people to repent and the Gospel is an explanation by Jesus of his role as the shepherd of his flock. It focusses on his role of protecting and guiding his sheep and expresses the deep love that he has for them.

The Pentecost reading needs to be seen in context and we ought to recognise that it came directly after the great sound of wind and tongues of fire coming to rest on the heads of the Apostles who then go out to the people miraculously preaching in various languages. So then what we have before us is part of the text of the first attempt at evangelisation which we are told was extraordinarily effective. Although they appear to be very different the two texts are, of course, linked. They are linked because the Good Shepherd who leads and guides the flock works through the words and actions of the Apostles. And on the Day of Pentecost those Apostles were teaching and leading and guiding the people, which are the very actions spoken about in that chapter from John’s Gospel.

They were acting as delegated shepherds of the people on behalf of Jesus Christ. Of course, we know that this continues in the Church right down to the present day. It is the role of the Pope and the Bishops to continue the work of the Apostles as it is of their co-workers, the priests and the deacons. The role of the Bishops and the priests is to carry on Christ’s work of shepherding his flock. They lead and guide and protect the flock which is the Church but they don’t do this in any authoritarian kind of way but rather with patience and care and concern. It is their duty to explain the scriptures and the doctrine of the Church to the community. It is also their role to warn the people of error and to comfort them in times of need and difficulty.

We see that the role of the ordained leaders of the Church is to help the faithful people to remain close to the Gospel values of love, justice and peace. It is to enable them to grow in their love and knowledge of God. It is to guide them in the ways of truth. They also, of course, lead the people in the worship and adoration of the one true God. This role of leading and guiding the people of God means also enabling leaders within the Christian community to emerge at every level. It means encouraging those with ability to use their talents in the service of others so that the whole community can grow in the love and service of God. You can see why then this Sunday is chosen as one on which we stress vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the religious life. This shepherding function is essential to the life and healthy growth of the Church which is why we take the opportunity to point out that the numbers coming forward to fulfil these positions in the Church is declining and that this presents us all with a problem. If our leadership is being spread thinner and thinner and if it is aging rapidly then we are approaching a crisis in the Church. It will mean that Parishes will have to be merged and masses reduced and ministry limited. Some people believe that there are easy solutions to this problem such as to ordain married men or to permit women to become priests. Some Churches have already done both of these things but they are still facing a decline in the numbers of those in the ordained ministry. So, there are no easy answers.

The Catholic Church has not taken this approach because it believes that making the sacrifice not to marry is of great value to priests and that the ordination of women was not sanctioned by Christ. This determination to stick to traditional values has actually meant that the vocation crisis has not devastated our Church as much as it might have otherwise. Nevertheless, there is still a sharp decline in numbers of priests and especially religious and this is a problem we need to solve. What is needed I believe is greater fidelity on behalf of the whole Church. If we were all stronger in our faith, if we were all a bit better at inculcating the faith in our children, if we were all more fervent in our Christian duties then I believe that more vocations would come. If our young people grew up in circumstances which enabled them to be firm and lasting believers then undoubtedly more would be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to express a priestly or religious vocation. What is needed, in my view, is a deepening of the culture of faith.

Above everything I believe that this means we need to pray and talk about the faith together. In how many Catholic families have we forgotten how to pray together? In how few Catholic families do we actively encourage discussion about matters of faith?

I think that there is a lot of work to be done in both of those areas. Let me give you two simple suggestions: The first is to make sure you do not start a meal without a grace and a couple of bidding prayers. The second is to discuss what the priest said in his sermon over your Sunday lunch. If not the sermon, then talk about those little quotes I put in the bulletin each week; those little gems of knowledge surely speak to us all. The problem is that the values of modern day society are so prevalent and all-encompassing that it is hard to resist them. We want to live good, fulfilling and prosperous lives and often we are led to believe that this only goes with worldly success. The world tells us that success is measured by the amount in our bank account and the size of our property but we Christians know that this is not so. We know that true fulfilment is found in depth of faith and the extent of our sacrifices. We know that true value is not to be found in selfishness but in generosity and love. So, today let us ask God to bless us with more priests, deacons and religious. And let us support those who are discerning God’s call with our prayers during these days.
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