[4th Sunday of Easter, Year C, April 17, 2016, Acts 13:14, 43-52 / Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5 / Rev 7:9, 14b-17 John 10:27-30]
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. One of my Mexican companions always struggled with “sh” and would always say “Good chipard Sunday.” Once, in a homily, he said: “The good chipard loves his chips.” Now in Greek, good is kalos, which also means beautiful, so Christ is not only the Good Shepherd but also the beautiful one.
Ever since I discovered the Word of God I knew I had found something beautiful. In fact, the very first time I met Verbum Dei was when I went to one of their houses in Sydney in 1998. I knocked on the door and was greeted by a Spanish sister. I asked her how she was and she responded that she was gorgeous. I think she meant to say she was fine. But listening to their preaching of the Word of God that night I discovered something gorgeous. That we can listen to God through his Word – we have a God who is not silent but one who speaks. How beautiful to be able to pray, to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10). One of the biggest problems we have is our wont to listen to the other sheep and not to the Good Shepherd.
Listening to the Good Shepherd gives security. When you have difficulty and turn to the Good Shepherd to guide you, he will tell you, “You will have struggles in the world but be brave! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). What security we can have. As the famous Psalm 23 tells us: “Even if I should walk through the valley of darkness, no evil will I fear for you walk beside me.” We are safe and secure in the arms of the Good Shepherd: “I know my sheep. They shall never perish and no one will steal them from me” (John 10:27-30). Before I entered religious life, before I really knew Christ, what gave me security was my job, my career. It gave me more security than my relationships. But on discovering the Word of God, listening to the Good Shepherd every day, I started to find my life had more direction and meaning. I was not like a lost sheep any more. I was invited on a one-day silent retreat and that day I understood the words, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Christ wants to live with us, in us. What security a life in him gives us. This is the vocation of every Christian.
Sometimes in our communities and families there are differences of opinion. Sometimes we even say that we have been insulted. “I didn’t like the way he spoke to me because it was insulting and demeaning.” What did he say? “He told me that I was not committed to my community and that I was half-hearted in my discipleship.” Ah, you are offended not because it is an insult but because it is true. Sometimes we say it is an insult but it is because we do not want to be corrected! We are hardheaded and hardhearted. How often pride masquerades as “sensitivity.” Anyway we should remember what the Good Shepherd tells us: “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body. Be afraid of the one who can cast body and soul into the depths.” It is the same old problem again – we listen more to the other sheep than to the Good Shepherd. He tells us, “You will not perish, no one can snatch you from my hand.” We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
Jesus our Good Shepherd has a firm grip on us. He asks us to respond to him. We should embrace our vocation but instead we want a vacation. How do I see my following of Christ? A vocation or a vacation? Fifty-fifty? How great to say like St Paul: “My life is Christ.” I want to help Jesus reach out to many lost sheep. Like the image on the bronze door of St. Peter’s Basilica showing the Good Shepherd hanging from a rock to save a lost sheep. The bronze panel bears the Latin inscription “Salvare quod perierat,” which means: “To save those who are lost.” Do you know someone who is lost? For sure the Good Shepherd is trying to reach out to them. Our vocation as Christians is to offer our hands to help him reach out, to offer our minds and creativity. What a shame that so many use their creativity to plan their leisure time, use their minds to work out how to make money at other people’s expense – yet how few give to God what belongs to him, how few use their time, talents and treasures to build the Kingdom? Will you take seriously the calling, the vocation you have from your very baptism, to assist Christ in his mission of shepherding? Or are you just looking for a vacation from your responsibilities and duties as a Christian? We will have plenty of time to rest in heaven. In the meantime, let us offer our lives as a living sacrifice, to help the Good Shepherd reach out to many people who are still lost. Amen.