A small parish along the Oregon Coast was looking for a priest. They placed this ad in a newsletter for retired clergy. It stated:
Now, those people knew how to write a good job description - but when you think about it, not an easy one. For me as a priest the hardest thing is to really love the people and allow them to love me. I've tried - and in some small measure succeeded - but only one has fully realized such a job description.
Jesus tells us today, "I am the good shepherd....call each by name." (Jn 10:3) And finally, "I lay down my life for my sheep." (v. 15)
During my years in Peru I got to know some shepherds. For most it was a part time job - they hoped to move on to something which payed better. Others, who themselves owned the flocks, took more interest, yet still viewed the sheep mainly in terms of wool and mutton. But a few were genuinely enthused about shepherding. They liked leading the animals out to pasture, caring for them so they didn't get too many parasites and could readily distinguish one sheep from the other. I made the mistake of venturing to one such shepherd that sheep did not seem very smart. She gave me an animated lecture on their qualities, highlighting their good points and offering explanations for behavior which did not seem so bright.
Jesus is that kind of shepherd. He feels a genuine affection for each sheep in the flock. "I know mine and mine know me." (Jn 10:14)
If Jesus' basic "job description" is to love us, his sheep - and to allow us to love him, we cannot say he does this alone. Like any good pastor, he "delegates." This Sunday I would like to highlight one person with whom Jesus shares his pastoral task.
Early in the Gospel we receive hints about her unique role. Elizabeth calls her "the mother of my Lord." (Lk 1:43) She herself acknowledges that God raised her from lowliness to such a degree that all generations will call her blessed. (v. 48) One of Jesus last words concerns our relationship to her, "Behold, your mother." (Jn 19:27)
Some fear that if we honor Mary - and ask her to pray for us - it will diminish Jesus' unique role as mediator and shepherd. However, the history of Christianity shows just the opposite. Those who honor Mary also have the clearest faith in the full divinity and humanity of Jesus.*
Devotion to the Mother of Jesus appeals to those the Gospel calls "little ones." Our school children with great tenderness brought flowers to her at the beginning of this month. An eighth grader and a kindergarten student joined in placing a small crown of flowers. Such gestures bring joy to Jesus and his Virgin Mother.
Last February I took my great-niece for a walk. Rachael, who was barely three, spent most of the time looking for flowers - not easy in that cold month. Finally she found a tiny one, picked it and took it to her mom. My niece Tonya was delighted by that simple offering. To honor our mother - and father - rises from deep inside us. The same applies to the Lady given as mother of all the baptized.
If we honor Mary, it will lead us to a right relationship to Jesus. She herself said, "Do whatever he tells you." (Jn 2:5) Nothing could be more important. St. Peter makes that clear: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
*Perhaps the best example is the title Theotokos (God-bearer) which was given Mary to make it clear she gave birth not only to the human nature of Jesus, but to the God-man. See the Council of Ephesus 431 A.D., against the heresy of Nestorius.
1999 Mother's Day Homily
Mary's Vow of Virginity
From Archives (Fourth Easter - Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Annual Catholic Appeal - Too Much Bureaucracy?
Holy Family Pilgrimage
my bulletin column
SMV Bulletin (be patient - sometimes we have problems uploading)
Parish Picture Album
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