The 4th Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd” Sunday, because each year the Gospel highlights a different aspect of a “good shepherd.” This year we are told that the shepherd is a gate that keeps out predators and that the sheep know his voice and follow him. I talk about what the good shepherd does FOR the sheep in today’s homily, which you can find on our St. Pius X website.
But our second reading, from the first letter of Peter, gives us some excellent advice about what we should NOT do, so as to be good shepherds. It specifically says this is how Christ acted and that we should try to do the same to “follow in His footsteps,” the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.
First, no deceit was found in His mouth. One way that we are good shepherds is by making sure that everything that comes out of our mouths is truthful and helpful to people, including our use of social media. So much harm is done in our world, so many people are led astray, by false news, half lies, and unwarranted conclusions. We are leading others by what we say: we need to be sure we are leading them on the right path, if and when we say or post anything.
Second, when he was insulted, he returned no insult. If someone insults us and we insult back, things escalate. If we ignore it or deal with it in a positive way, we are inviting the other to take the right path of charity and kindness. As I listen to our leaders hurl insults at each other, I fear for where it is leading us. What are our children learning? How will we get out of this vicious circle? A good shepherd does not insult others.
Finally, when he suffered, he did not threaten. Retaliation, an eye for an eye, is in our blood. But Jesus has shown us a better way, a way that leads to peace, rather than escalation. The more I can invite peace and understanding into our world, the more I am living as Christ did, showing His goodness and kindness to others.
My friends, what we say and do DOES make a big difference in our world: we influence others and our surrounding environment for good or for bad. Am I generally a good shepherd who invites peace, harmony, and understanding in my milieu? How can I do better?
As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, let us resolve to be the best shepherds possible to each other. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand across my mouth.
Our Gospel this weekend is the story of two disciples of Jesus, saddened and disoriented by what had happened to Him, walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This story is a map of what must happen to us, if we are to be true followers of Jesus.
First, the disciples allowed Jesus to walk with them and they listened to Him. We need to put ourselves in situations where we can listen to Jesus, for example, by regular attendance at Mass and paying attention to the readings and homily, by reading scripture, and especially by spending quiet time talking and listening to the Lord each day.
Then, just as the disciples recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” we will have “ah ha” moments of recognizing Jesus in the people and events of our lives. Our hearts will be “burning within us,” as we realize His great love for us.
Finally, the disciples ran back to Jerusalem to share the Good News that Jesus was truly risen. Their encounter with Jesus filled them with such joy that they simply HAD to share it. The ultimate goal of our walking with Jesus and experiencing “ah ha” moments is to fill us with joy and enthusiasm to share the Good News with others, to be
instruments of bringing Christ’s love and goodness to those around us. Ultimately, that is what it means to be a disciple: walk, experience, and share.
Our world is in great need of the Good News of Jesus. He wants all people to hear and accept His Good News of how to live a compassionate, meaningful life. But He needs all of our help to do it.
As we move through Eastertime, let us renew our resolve to walk with Jesus, to listen to Him, and to share the Good News with others. That is what it means to be a baptized follower of Jesus.
May God continue to bless you and your family.
Church sign of the week: Come to worship; leave to serve.
Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a wonderful snapshot of the early Christian community.
We are told of four pillars that supported their community: the teaching of the apostles, community life, the breaking of bread, and prayer. We are not “Christian” by ourselves. We are baptized into a community. That is why it is so critical that we gather each week to hear the Word, to break bread, and to pray together. In short, that is when we ARE community.
What was the result of being this kind of community? We are told they would sell their possessions, put the money in a common pot, and share as it was needed. They were able to trust each other, to share with each other, and reach out to others. How are we doing, as individuals and as a community, in terms of sharing with others, especially those who don’t have what we have? Our Living Waters campaign continues to Pentecost, our chance to reach out and provide others with an essential of life.
We know that these early communities had struggles and problems, because Paul addresses some of them in his letters. But because they came together as a community to listen to the Word, receive the Body of Christ, and pray, they were able to overcome their divisions, “praising God” with “sincerity of heart.” As a result, we are told, “every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” They were happy and they were evangelizing: bringing others to the community that supported them in life.
How are we doing as a community? Are we bringing Christ to others by our joyfulness and how we share the gifts God has given us? It’s a challenge, but we have the help of the Holy Spirit, as did the early Church.
As we celebrate Easter time and move toward Pentecost, let us resolve to be faithful in joining the community to hear the Word, share the Body and Blood of Christ, pray together, and support each other as we struggle to bring Christ to others. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Come to worship, leave to serve.
As I was reflecting on today’s readings on my computer, I was called to the front office. When I came back, the computer was acting wacky: I couldn’t control the mouse or do anything. Then I remembered what my techie brother always told me: when you have a problem, “REBOOT.” So, I restarted the computer, rebooted it, and all was fine.
Then it struck me: that is what the disciples of Jesus had to do: reboot. They had been following him for almost three years and knew the incredible things he could do. But they were brought up to believe the Messiah would be a great warrior king who would make Israel #1 and they were ready to take positions of power and honor in this new kingdom. No matter how many times Jesus tried to explain reality to them, they could not hear it: they were ready to be important people in the powerful kingdom that Jesus, the kingly Messiah, would establish.
Then to make matters worse, one of them betrayed him, one who bragged that he would die for him ended up denying him three times, and they abandoned him in his time of need. How crushed, deflated, and ashamed they must have felt. They certainly needed a reboot.
That is why Jesus says he will meet them in Galilee. Galilee is where it all started: they were Galileans, it is where Jesus called them, it is where he spent most of his active life. They needed to go back to the beginning and see all in the light of the risen Christ (a number of times in the Gospels we hear “they didn’t understand until after he was risen from the dead”).
My friends, we all need to be rebooted now and then. That is why, in its wisdom, the Church gives us the 40 days of Lent and the celebration of the Triduum each year to help us reboot, examine ourselves, see what needs to be better, and work on making it happen. Those early disciples needed to leave behind their shame for what they had done in order to be open to the Spirit, which would energize them to go forth and proclaim the risen Christ. We need to do the same.
Hopefully, as we lived our way through Lent, we recognized how we need to grow to be better followers of Jesus and have been working to achieve that. Our sins and failings were nailed to the cross with Jesus on Good Friday and we have been rebooted, freed to celebrate with joy the resurrection of our Lord and Savior and share that joy with those we meet. That is the meaning of what we celebrate today.
This is my tenth Easter at Pius. Hard to believe! It has been a good ten years for me. I have grown and I hope you have grown in your faith, as we have walked together and listened to the Risen Christ inviting us to “go back to Galilee.”
The Lord is Truly Risen. Happy Easter!!! ALLELUIA!!!!
Church sign of the week: We all have baggage. It’s time to unpack.