April 17, 2016 Fourth Sunday of Easter Fr. Jim Miller

Fourth Sunday of Easter April 17, 2016

Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5

  1. (3c) We are his people, the sheep of his flock. Reading 2 Rev 7:9, 14b-17

Alleluia Jn 10:14

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 10:27-30

Homily— April 16 & 17, 2016    


            This year I celebrated the funeral of a man who had pancreatic cancer thirty years ago.   He was terribly sick and was expected to die.   In the hospital one day he said to his wife, “Who is that man with the staff and the sheep”   What is he doing here?   He smells awful”   Ever since his healing both he and his wife had a devotion to the Good Shepherd.

            John Martens wrote a commentary in America magazine that I liked.  He said “the image of Jesus the Lamb tells us that our God came to be one of us, to walk in solidarity with us, to die for us, not to control us.  The Good Shepherd knows who we are, cares for us, and has our best interests at stake.  If we are willing to hear the Good Shepherd, we will know our true worth.

            In fact, knowing that we belong to the Good Shepherd is the source of all of our value.  God loved us enough to become one of us.  To know God is to know ourselves and our worth; to love God is to love ourselves for who we are:  sheep who know the shepherd, who hear his call and who respond to the voice of God.

            Both Revelation and John’s Gospel indicate why God, the Good Shepherd, became the Lamb of God and where God is leading us.  Jesus says in John’s Gospel that his reason for calling his flock is because he gives ‘eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one will snatch them out of my hand.’  The sheep are following the shepherd to paradise.  Their care is eternal.”

            In the Book of Revelation, John, the visionary, foresees how it is all going to turn out.  In response to critics of incorporating local gentiles into the community, John says that those who worship before the Lamb will comprise an uncountable multitude representing every human family, culture and tongue.  What makes them a unified people, a community of faith, is their relationship to Christ and the signature combination of persecution and victory their faith has brought them.

            The recent cross burning in Dubuque is a sign of someone who does not recognize that Jesus loves all people of every color, nationality and language.  What they did was a sinful act.  Let us always choose love over fear.

            Fr. Jose Antonio Pagola sums up what following Jesus means:  “It is to believe what Jesus believed, to love what Jesus loved, to defend the dignity of the human person as Jesus defended it; to be with the powerless and vulnerable as Jesus was; to be free to do good as Jesus did; to trust the Father as Jesus trusted Him, and to face life and death with the great message of Easter:  Hope!  Victory!”

            The Book of Revelation and John’s Gospel invite us to dream, to remember and to imagine our destiny, as we move in joy and sorrow toward the glory to be revealed.

            The Good Shepherd has certainly protected and guided me even when I may have put myself in danger.   My parents told me that when I was two or three years old a herd of cattle ran over me but I had no injuries.    When I was  about 12 or so I was hunting raccoons with Dad and a couple of uncles and a family friend when about a 40 # raccoon jumped out of the tree toward the light that I was holding and our friend saw what was happening and knocked me out of the way.   I have driven over a million miles but was able to avoid all accidents though I did do a 360 on dry pavement once at 65 miles an hour and ended up going into the ditch backward trying to avoid a deer which I did.   After a tow I was able to drive home giving thanks to God.  

            When I was trying to decide whether or not I could make a lifetime commitment to the priesthood I felt that God wanted me to do it even though I was not sure if I could.   There was one time in particular when I wished I could have been a priest and also be married.  I was living and working as a missionary in Bolivia—a long way from home.   I prayed about this decision and struggled with it for a year.   I decided it would be best to return to the archdiocese and to be closer to family and friends since this is where my vocation originated.   Thanks be to God that I have been able to minister here the last 30 years.   I believe the devil tempts us to turn away from our commitments in many subtle ways.   He wants us to pray less, tells us it is ok to skip church once in a while, that we don’t need God to be happy.  

            I am happiest when I am receiving or sharing the sacraments with others.   I am happiest when I am at prayer both alone or especially sharing faith with others.   Thank you God for my vocation as a priest.   Good Shepherd continue to protect and guide me in this life.  

            In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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