4th Sunday of Easter - homily
Our shepherd is coming to see us! It will be an exciting week here in Washington as Pope Benedict XVI visits our Archdiocese from Tuesday until Friday. Pope Benedict is the successor to St. Peter who was the first pope. The pope is the shepherd of the universal Church. Here’s some perspective of the enormity of the Holy Father’s flock: Fr. Mike, our local shepherd, is in charge of about 4000 Catholics in our parish. Pope Benedict is in charge of 1,000,000,000 Catholics! He really is the shepherd of all of God’s people, but specifically, one billion Catholics worldwide. He is our German shepherd (!) and he is coming to see us!
But, we might get confused when we hear the psalm from today, “The Lord is my shepherd”. And, in the passage immediately following today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”. Let us make no mistake: Christ is our shepherd. But, what He does is hand on the task of shepherding to the Apostles and their successors. In this Gospel, he lays the groundwork for this. He is speaking about religious leaders, that some are good and some are bad. The good ones are those who enter through the gate which is Christ; these are the Apostles and their successors. The bad ones are those who don’t enter through the gate; he is referring mainly to the Pharisees. Christ hands over the reigns of shepherding his flock to the Apostles and their successors. “Whoever enters through the gate will be the shepherd of the sheep”. Later in John’s Gospel, he will make Peter the main shepherd by telling him three times to “feed my sheep”.
Jesus also proclaims that “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name”. I believe that one of the things that Pope Benedict will do this week will be to call all of us American Catholics to holiness. He will call us “by name” to live the Gospel. He will call us to prayer and service. We live out holiness in our particular vocations whether it’s married life, religious life, or single life. Each one of us is called by God through the Church to one of these vocations. On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, we pray that the young men and women of this parish will hear God’s Call and answer it, whatever it may be. Most are called to be married, but some are called to priests, some are called to be religious sisters, and some are called to be single. As we said the other night to the young kids at the DC ‘Hood game, their answer right now to the question of whether God is calling them to religious life is not ‘yes’, it’s not ‘no’, it’s ‘maybe’!
Finally, when we come to Mass, we remember what Christ has done for us. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. His love for us is so great that he lays down his life as shepherd and becomes a lamb, a sacrificial lamb. May the grace of the Blood of the Lamb help each of us to answer the call to holiness. May it help us to lay down our lives for him and for others.