Bottom line: Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Lamb who suffers for us and with us.
At our Masses we are praying for the victims of the violence in Boston - for those who died, for the injured and for their families. I cannot do better than quote the message from our Holy Father, Pope Francis
"Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God's peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering, and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come."
This Sunday's readings speak about Jesus as our leader, our shepherd. I would like to begin with this question: What makes a person a great leader? We can learn from one of the greatest leaders in history - Alexander the Great. You remember him. He was the guy, still in his twenties, who conquered most of the known world. When his army was crossing the Makran Desert on their way to Persia, they ran out of water. Some of Alexander's lieutenants managed to get enough water to fill a small helmet. They brought it to the general.
He asked, "Is there enough for both me and my men?"
"Only you, sir," they replied. Alexander then lifted up the helmet as the soldiers watched. Instead of drinking, he tipped it and poured the water into the sand. The men cheered. They knew their general would not allow them to suffer anything he was unwilling to accept.
Jesus is that kind of leader par excellence. Today's reading from Revelation says, "The Lamb...will shepherd them." As the Lamb, he gives his life for us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has suffered for us and he continues to suffer with us. He does not ask us to take on anything that he himself is not willing to endure.
And what does Jesus ask us to take on? Well, St. John speaks about a "time of great distress." None of us knows what the future will bring. But we know it will include distress. Although Jesus does not promise us a rose garden, he does assures us that he will be with us. We can say: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me." Whatever distress we experience, Jesus the Good Shepherd, will be by our side.
The reading from Revelation speaks about distress in terms of hunger and thirst. You and I have within us a longing - a thirst - that nothing here below can satisfy. Let me give an example. About twenty years ago, a young man arrived in our country from Mexico. He brought nothing with him and had limited English. But he had an ability to train dogs and he made a lot of money helping people with problem pets. He even got his own television show. He seemed to have everything: money, fame, admiration. But a few years ago he felt so empty that he tried to take his own life. I am thankful he did not succeed.
His life, however, shows that nothing in this world can satisfy our inner thirst. Our reading today says that the Lamb will shepherd us and will lead us to springs of life-giving water. The way we get to that spring is by following Jesus, by becoming part of his flock. What will matter in the long run is whether we belong to the flock of Jesus. Perhaps you have read the Chronicles of Narnia. In the final book, after the "Last Battle," the children find themselves again the lion who represents Jesus. It is joyful moment. Five of the children are there - Peter, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace and Jill. But one is missing: Susan. She had become involved in other things - lipstick, dresses, invitations - not bad things in themselves, but they made her forget about Aslan, that is, Christ.
We need to be aware of that possibility. You and I can make choices that separate us from Christ, from his flock. Jesus, nevertheless, gives wonderful assurance in today's Gospel: I know my sheep and they follow me. "No one can take them out of my hand." No power can separate us from Christ.
Of course, we have to freely follow him. In the reading from Acts, Paul and Barnabas urge the people to "remain faithful." Like them we will have trials, but you notice that they were "filled with joy." They know that Jesus is with them.
So this Sunday we see that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Lamb who suffers not only for us, but with us. For that reason he can give us a "blessed assurance." No one can take us from his hand. And he will lead us to the springs of life-giving water. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Amen.
From Archives (Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru