Fr. David’s homily April 17, 2016.
4th Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. First, a story. There was a famous actor who was born in a small Welch village. He never came back to the village but the villagers kept track of him, basking vicariously in his renown. Then one day he announced that he was coming home. The village prepared for his return with a large town hall gathering. It was a great day. At the large town hall meeting the actor entertained everyone with stunning Shakespearean readings. Then, as an encore, he offered to accept a request. A shy older woman raised her hand and asked if he knew the 23rd psalm. The actor said, “Yes I do, and I will recite it on one condition that when I am finished you recite the same psalm.” The actor did a beautiful rendition.
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,
In verdant pastures he gives me repose,
Beside restful waters he leads me….he refreshes my soul.”
And so he went on until he finished reciting the psalm. The townspeople applauded enthusiastically. Then it was the villager’s turn. She came to the stage and recited the same words but this time there was no applause, just a hushed silence and the beginning of tears in some eyes. The actor savored the silence for a few minutes, and then he stood up. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen I hope you realize what happened here tonight. I know the 23rd Psalm but this woman knows the Shepherd.'”
My fellow Christians, every woman and man here today is dedicated to knowing Jesus, our Shepherd. Some of you have come to know him by walking the valleys of darkness with him in your own inner tragedies, the tragedies of relations, in raising your children, in the lives of your relatives and friends, and in the struggle with your careers. Others have come to know the Shepherd from the top of the mountain experiences of love and marriage, in your children, in your own inner peace, joy and hope, in the success of your careers. Others, as I have come to realize over these years with you, you have come to know him in your witness to the social gospel, in your standing alongside the poor and disenfranchised of this world. In asking the question: “What does the city need and how can we help?” You have come to know the Shepherd in the lives and faces the Shepherd himself loves unconditionally. Some of you have come to know the Shepherd in worshipping here and through ministering to one another in this parish family. The Shepherd has nudged you, inspired you, without criticism, sought you out when you were lost, let you go your own way in freedom. We friars come to know him like you do, through our own valley of darkness, and in sharing yours; in our own mountaintop experiences, and in sharing yours; in standing with you at society’s barricades defending the rights of the weakest members of our society, the unborn and the dying, the scandal of the death penalty, joining our voices with immigrants, our sisters and brothers, who seek a home, work and security for themselves and their children. We are grateful beyond measure for the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows us and we follow him.
There is a voice in our church, listened to not only by us, but also by many in our world. It’s the voice of Pope Francis, not the Good Shepherd, but a good shepherd none-the-less. His recent letter on the joy of love moves from a self-professed, less-judgmental church, to the everyday lives of understanding and the acceptance of people in their everyday lived realities. People should not be constantly reminded of their inadequacies, he says. Rather, Francis emphasizes the inclusive and the positive. The church under Pope Francis is not a monastic community, isolated from the world. It is a community that will let some things go. “No one can be condemned forever,” says Francis. Burn-in-hell-for-eternity is not on his radar screen. Instead he offers tips on how to keep “the passion” of love alive even under difficult and trying situations. Francis also walks the talk. Today the news is of his visit to the refugee camp in Greece on the island of Lesbos.
He brought 12 Syrian Muslim refugees, 3 families including 6 children, back with him to the Vatican with humanitarian visas to be cared for there. He spoke to all the refugees a message of hope, against what he calls the “globalization of indifference.” “Do not lose hope; you are not alone,” he said to them. It was the voice of the Shepherd in our time.
So, my brothers and sisters, hear again the voice of the Shepherd this morning. Listen to hear that voice in the days to come this week. It is a voice that is both powerful yet tender, above all merciful and forgiving. Take to heart the opening prayer of today’s Mass.
“Attune our minds to the sound of your voice;
lead our steps in the path you have shown,
that we may know the strength of your outstretched arm,
and enjoy the light of your presence forever.”
Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Our Lord and our God.
David J. McBriar, O.F.M.
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”