22 April 20184 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Cycle B - John 10:11-18

The poet WH Auden wrote, "Nothing can save us that is possible. We who must die demand a miracle." What will the heaven Jesus of Nazareth offers us in the Gospels resemble? The cynic says, "Heaven is the Coney Island of the Christian imagination." The satirist, who may be more correct than he realizes, writes, "In heaven, roast geese fly around with gravyboats in their bills. Strawberry tarts grow like sunflowers. Everywhere there are brooks of bouillon and champagne..." The theologian borrows a line from today's first reading, "...we shall be like Him..." After all is said and done, though, one point is certain, "Catholics talk about heaven but few are anxious to get there." Courage! One Catholic writer may cause us to move up our reservations. Says he, "It is my firm conviction that heaven, to satisfy the whole person, must have all the beauties, splendors, and material pleasures possible." The author is Luigi Majocco, SJ. His book is Heavenly Humanism: a New Vision of Paradise. The volume received good reviews from publications as diverse as Civilta Cattolica and from Panorama, the equal of Newsweek and Time. It has the official approval of the Church. Professor Majocco of the Jesuit Social Institute in Turin argues that the usual image of heaven as the angel's playground has no box office appeal for us. In his heaven, we will be able "to receive all the caresses we have not been able to receive."

Heaven will be "an entire world of friends and dear relatives and, in a way of speaking, crazy lovers." In heaven we will discover "delicate perfumes, exquisite birdsongs, rhythmic dances...athletic competitions contested by some, watched with interest by others, and applauded by all - even the losers." It will be "impossible for us to be bored because we will be taking tourist trips through the cosmos and there are so many angels and humans to meet." Of course the Jesuit will allow us to taste the pleasures of the table. However, there is one note of dismal news for this pansexual age. There will be no sex. I wonder how much influence Father Majocco's advanced age and his celibate vow colored his thinking on this point. So, all you lovers, take heart! This book may be a target for laughs by TV comics (ie, if they can read books). Yet the 600 page tome offers magical pictures and worthwhile discussion points. Also out in his theological bullpen, Majocco has two formidable relief pitchers - George Santayana and a fellow Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin.

And that is traveling first class. Santayana was the late celebrated professor of philosophy at Harvard University. He wanted to lift heaven out of the non-excitement that literature usually lends to it. He counters that if we must discuss heaven, we should do so in "frankly material" terms. One such is the re-meeting of old friends - a point which, you may recall, Majocco emphasizes. Father Teilhard, who needs no introduction, argues that heaven will be human, cosmic, social, and material. Keep in mind heaven has to be material. Our defined teaching posits that the bodies of Jesus and Mary are already there. Also the Church teaches that in the general resurrection our bodies will head there directly. Could it be that spiritual writers with their contempt for the material world have sold Jesus short? After all, He did say, "In my father's house, there are many mansions." Do picture yourself in a heavenly suite. Or this familiar line, "Come, ye blessed of my father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Consider this exciting line from St Paul: "Eye has not seen nor ear heard - neither has it entered into the heart of man the things (my italics) God has prepared for those who love him." Beware though. Unlike American Express, heaven is not a place where one travels now and pays later. And discount packages are simply out of the question. Nor are there travel agents. You do your own negotiating with God. Remember Whitefield's line. "You take care of your life, and the Lord will take care of your death." Hopefully the late Mr Auden enjoys the miracle he demanded.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherds

The Ainsley family of Iowa received exciting news. They knew that they had distant relatives in Scotland, and once went over to visit them, but they didn’t realize what an impact this visit had on one of these people. While they were in Scotland, they met an elderly relative, Uncle MacAllistair. They spent quite a bit of time with him talking about their active Catholic Parish in Iowa. Uncle MacAllistar had mentioned that his part of the family had remained Catholic despite the persecutions of the sixteens and seventeenth centuries, He also said that it would be wonderful if they could move back to Scotland to strengthen the faith there. The Ainsleys went back home to Iowa. About five years later, the Ainsley’s received notice that Uncle MacAllistair had passed away. Three months after this, the Ainsleys learned that he had left them all his property. Among his other holdings, Uncle MacAllistar had a wool business that turned a little profit every year. The Ainsleys decided to go to Scotland to investigate whether they should continue the business. Upon arriving they found a farm with a flock of 400 sheep grazing on the hills. This all seemed wonderful until they began going over the business ledgers. They learned that five years earlier, there had been a thousand sheep. So they asked the business manager about this, and he said that a lot of people had moved and it's hard to find good help. "But why have the number of sheep gone down?" the Ainsleys asked. "Well," the manager said, “there was a flood one year, another year we had trouble with thieves, but basically speaking, there aren't a whole lot of people willing to go into the hills and risk health and life for the animals." Good shepherds are hard to find. A good shepherd has to recognize the value of the sheep.

A good shepherd has to be willing to take risks to protect the sheep. A good shepherd has to care. A long time ago I used to teach in a high school. I taught math and science and, of course, religion. I also coached cross country and track. It was fun. I had a lot of good experiences in the classroom and at the meets. But I also had the horrible experience of coming upon teachers who did little to nothing for their students. I remember one history teacher who would have a Teen read from the textbook every day. On test day he would circulate a test prepared by the textbook manufacturer. During his classes the kids would fool around, their noise often drowned the reader. The teacher would just sit there. He knew many would fail the test. Big deal. He didn't care. My guess is that some of you have come upon parents who behave in a similar way regarding their children. They let their high school kids stay out late, even on school nights. They claim that they don’t have the energy to be bothered with a fight. If their Teen gets in trouble, that's his or her problem. As parents, they just don't care. I remember a Teen from one of these families crying out, "Why don’t my parents love me?" I think all of us have come upon similar sad situations. And we probably have also come upon people in our work or careers who behave the same way. It is one thing when a person is learning how to do a task, or if a person is overwhelmed with work. We can understand that. But all of us have a difficult time understanding people who don't do their jobs simply because they don’t care. I am embarrassed to tell you, that I have even come upon priests who behave in this way. Along with shirking their responsibility, the uncaring teacher, parent and priest also communicate a terrible negativity to those entrusted to their care.

They tell them that they have little value. They are not worth being concerned over. That is not how the Lord treats us. Jesus cares. He is the Good Shepherd. He values each of us. He goes whatever extra distance each of us needs to bring us back into his flock. He died for all of us. He died for each of us. His care for us gives us value: we are important to the Eternal Son of God. The Lord calls us to give value to his people by caring for them. St. Damien of Molokai wrote about a leper who was given a blanket someone had sent in answer to one of Damien’s appeals for help. The man held the blanket close to himself and cried. He asked Fr. Damien if he could be buried with it. You see, to this man, this wasn’t just a blanket. It was proof that there were people in the world who cared for him. I was thinking about the congregation of sisters that St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, founded. The poorest of the poor whom the Missionaries of Charity care for die with the dignity which is the right of every human being. They received this dignity because the good sisters care. We have got to continue the mission of the Good Shepherd. We have got to care for others. We can't close our eyes to someone who needs help. We have to empower them to stand on their own two feet, but no matter what their situation, no matter what hard words or feelings may have been expressed, we can never cut them off from our care. This particularly applies to the members of our family. It is so sad to hear about people who exclude members of their family from their love. "But he did this, she did that, Father," they may protest. Yes, and that was horrible. But he or she has a right to dignity. He or she needs us to care about them and for them. God formed us into his children. Now we must bring the love of our Father to all, just as Jesus did. We have to care. Then we can be good shepherds.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Easter
First Quality of a Good Shepherd
(April 22, 2018)

Bottom line: The relationship with the Father, as Bishop Mueggenborg underscores, is the first quality of a good shepherd. This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. We are blessed to have with us one of the chief shepherds of our archdiocese: Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg who will confer on the seal of the Holy Spirit on our young people. He comes an hour and a half early so he can meet with our youth. Now that's a good shepherd! Bishop Mueggenborg has written a three volume commentary on the Sunday Gospel - "Come, Follow Me, Discipleship Reflections." Regarding today's Gospel he comments on what Jesus shows us about being a shepherd. He makes four points. I'd like to underscore the first point. It applies to bishops, priests, parents and pastoral ministers like St. Vincent de Paul, Knights and religious education teachers - all who have a shepherding role.

The first quality of the shepherd regards Jesus relationship with the Father. As Bishop Mueggenborg states, "This relationship is expressed in terms of 'knowing'. The knowledge of which Jesus speaks isn't so much conceptual as it is experiential. Jesus knows the the Father's hopes and concerns. He knows what pleases the Father and what disappoints the Father. It is this knowledge that allows Jesus to manifest the challenging, comforting, encouraging and inspiring presence of God." I saw this quality in action last week when Archbishop Sartain spoke to the men's conference. He shared his own prayer and reflection on the Word, in this case Chapter 15 of Luke where Jesus talks about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost soul. After his presentation men came to confessions. I cannot mention anything said under the seal but I can share how moved I was by those men opening their hearts to Lord and to me as Jesus' representative.

That happens when people hear the voice of a good shepherd - one who has a deep relationship with the Father, who in Jesus knows the Father. A good shepherd leads souls to Jesus. It's not Phil Bloom who saves anyone. It's Jesus. In the first reading we see a crippled man healed when Peter prays over him. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, Peter declares that it is in the name of Jesus the cripple "stands before you healed." Then Peter adds, "There is no name under heaven given to the human race by which we are saved." The Buddha has some valuable teachings. (You can in fact find similar doctrines in the Bible.) But it is not in the Buddha's name that a person is saved. you can say something similar about all great religious leaders: Confucius, Lao Tse, even Mohamed. They all have insights that we can appreciate, yet there's only one name that saves - Jesus! Our faith is inclusive because Jesus includes the entire truth. We need to be clear, however, in speaking about the truth. As Pope Benedict points out it's not so much that we possess the truth as that the truth possesses us. We want to know the truth: the relationship to the Father made possible through Jesus. The relationship with the Father, as Bishop Mueggenborg underscores, is the first quality of a good shepherd. "I am the Good Shepherd," says Jesus, "and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa trobe, 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 John 10: 11-18

The image that Jesus uses of the Good Shepherd verses the hiring is one that is easy to picture. It is a beautiful image of how Jesus looks upon each of us. He is the good shepherd who cares for us, searches for us when lost, and protects us from harm. He is not a hired hand who works for pay and lacks a personal connection with the sheep. Jesus loves us and it is the total, pure and unconditional love that he gives us that is at times difficult to accept, for most love we experience or express is tainted with the struggles and imperfections we have with totally loving without conditions. Hopefully we are not at the level of the hired hands, but we struggle to accept and to give that perfect love of Jesus. On one of our College Service trips the students and I stayed at the home of a young couple with several young children. The couple were a beautiful example of a holy family in how they related to one another, prayed together and obviously loved each other. One day the wife told our students of how it dawned on her what truly love is. She had a successful careers, and worked for a company that was very much into affirming their employees. Company memos regularly were sent out that included commending some employee for a job well done. She got use to these pats on the back for everything she did.

She stopped working when they had their first child. This was a very dramatic shift for her, and she shared how on one day, with a two year old and a new born, she was trying to cook dinner for her husband and some guests. The baby started fussing and wouldn't stop crying, and the baby's crying woke up the two year old from her nap and she was cranky and into a tantrum mode. She was busy giving both attention hoping to calm them down, as well as to keep her eye on dinner. Finally, things settled down, the two year old went about playing, the baby fell back to sleep, and the dinner was almost ready. She paused and thought to herself, “I just did a great job, where's the pat on the back?, where's someone to tell me what a great job I did? There was no one. As she thought about this it dawned on here that when she worked the affirmation was good, and was expected. As a wife and mother she wasn't doing these things for affirmation, she was doing them out of love. When we do things out of love we aren't looking for affirmation. It's not about what we get out of it, but rather the love we have that moves us to give of ourselves. A few weeks ago when we recalled the Passion of Jesus there were no words of affirmation to Jesus as he hung upon the cross. Now one was saying, “good job, Jesus,” No one was patting him on the back. The crowds were yelling' “Crucify him,” and the soldiers were scourging and beating him. Jesus didn't suffer for us so that he could be affirmed, he suffered and died for us because he loves us. This is the Love we celebrate during the Easter Season. It is the Love of God that conquered sin and death and is freely given to us. It is the Love shown in the Good Shepherd. It's the love we are called to make out own so as to serve God and one another. It is not like a hired hand waiting to be paid, but as the Good Shepherd, not seeking anything, but only loving.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Easter
Fourth Sunday of Easter

On this the Fourth Sunday of Easter in all three years of the liturgical cycle we get an extract from the tenth chapter of St John's Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Good Shepherd. It is for this reason that it is often called Good Shepherd Sunday and is kept as a day of prayer for priestly and religious vocations. I don't know how deeply you have studied the Gospel of John, but if you have read it through you will have noticed that it is strikingly different from the other three Gospels and one of those differences is that there are no parables in it. When you consider that in the Synoptic Gospels the parables form the core of Christ's teaching this makes John's Gospel markedly different. Instead of parables John has Jesus using metaphors which often come with the prefix ‘I am', examples of these are: I am the True Vine, I am the Light of the World, I am the Bread of Life. And of course, the one we are considering today: I am the Good Shepherd. Actually, the word we translate as ‘good' is rendered in the original Greek as kalos. It can be translated as good but also as beautiful or honourable and sometimes as ideal. However, when we say in English that Jesus is the ‘Good' Shepherd it could have the possible negative connotation of being a bit soppy or pious. According to me the word kalos would be better translated as ideal. Jesus is telling us that he is the perfect shepherd, the one whom all other shepherds should take as their model. This fits in quite well with the Church's choice of this as Vocations Sunday. Jesus is the one, true, ideal shepherd which all who aspire to be pastors in the Church should take as their exemplar.

One of the key jobs of a shepherd is to protect his flock. Sheep are vulnerable to attack by predators and have no real defences which means that they need to be guarded twenty-four hours a day. Often in the evening several shepherds would come together and put their sheep in an enclosure on the hillside and take turns in watching during the night. Specifically, in the text Jesus identifies the wolf as the enemy of the sheep. Jesus also talks about him knowing his sheep. If we had a hundred sheep put in front of us we would be unable to tell one from another because, according to us, they all look the same. But to the shepherd each sheep has its own unique characteristics. The shepherd might not actually give them individual names, but he knows one from another. He knows how much milk they produce and is aware of which diseases they are prone to; he knows which are the good ones and which are the naughty; to him they are a collection of unique individuals. This image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a good one; Jesus needs to protect us from the Evil One and he recognises that we are highly individual, each with our own unique personalities and particular problems. He has oversight of us all as a group, but he also knows each one by name. In fact, you could say that Jesus knows us better than we even know ourselves. Christ leads us principally by means of the sacraments and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. By Baptism he leads us into the fold of the Church; in the Eucharist he feeds us with his body and blood; in reconciliation he leads us to repentance and heals us of our ills.

And in the evening of life he gently leads us into his kingdom of love and peace. The logical follow through from this metaphor of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is that we are his sheep. This begs the question as to whether we are as good sheep as we should be. It might be worth looking at what constitutes being ‘good sheep'. Firstly, if Jesus knows his sheep then the sheep also ought to know the shepherd and be very familiar with him. For us this means studying the scriptures and staying close to Jesus in prayer. We ought to know Jesus very well, we should be completely familiar with him and be aware of his wishes for us. Our deepest desire ought to be to please him in all things. Also, a good sheep follows where the shepherd leads. Some sheep are prone to straying and frequently get themselves into tricky situations. But good and obedient sheep stay close to the shepherd and go where he leads them. Bad sheep follow anyone who comes by, but when dangers come along these false shepherds run away and leave the sheep unprotected. So, if we are to be good sheep we need to stay close to our true shepherd and follow his commands in all things. The good sheep also joyfully accepts the food that its master offers. He brings them to rich pastures where they can fill themselves with nourishing grass. He stops them from eating toxic plants and in this way keeps them safe. We too need to take what the Lord gives us; we ought to enrich ourselves spiritually by frequenting the sacraments and nourishing our souls with prayer and spiritual reading.

We should avoid consuming the poisonous food that the devil offers because we know that this corrupts us at a very profound level. No, we need to stick to the rich and healthy pastures which Jesus leads us to and stay away from all that can do us harm. From all this we can see how, without stretching the metaphor too far, it is important for us to accept Jesus as our good and ideal shepherd as well as for us to commit ourselves to being good and biddable sheep. Jesus is not only our shepherd, he is our Divine Saviour; he has given his life for our salvation and we ought to do our very best to follow where he leads. I ought to say a word about vocations since this is Vocations Sunday. Although we can experience a call to service in the Church at any age we would be wise to address our young people since God often calls people to become priests and religious in their youth. It is important for our young people to develop a rich life of prayer because it is in prayer that God makes his wishes known to us. It is vital for our young people to develop a good habit of prayer and to realise that this is not something to be confined to the times we go to mass. We should pray in the morning and the evening and at other times during the day. If we are waiting at the bus stop or if we find a few minutes in the classroom waiting for others to finish their work, then these moments can also be filled with prayer. Prayer is essential in the life of a Christian and without prayer we will be unable to know where God is leading us in life and will be more likely to go astray. With prayer as an important element of our life we will be more easily able to recognise the path on which God is leading us and therefore more likely to find a true and fulfilling vocation in life. The Church needs priests as well as religious brothers and sisters. If God is calling you it is important that you recognise this at an early stage so that you can take up your calling and find fulfilment in ministry to others in the Church. You can be assured that we are all supporting you in this vital discernment with our own prayers.

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