Homily for April 26, 2015: 4th Sunday of Easter: Msgr. Jim Miller

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 26, 2015

Reading 1 Acts 4:8-12

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

Reading 2 1 Jn 3:1-2

Gospel Jn 10:11-18

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Jesus says “I am” forty-five times in the Gospel of John.   Today’s gospel begins with Jesus saying “I am the Good Shepherd.   To be a good shepherd means you are willing to lay down your life for your sheep.   I have no experience with sheep.   They are said to be backward and timid.   They need to be moved from one pasture to another or they will destroy the pasture.   When Jesus calls us “sheep” he implies that we are not only weak but helpless.  Without Jesus we can do nothing.

Shepherds would get to know their sheep and the sheep would know the voice and the whistle of the shepherd.   They would respond to no other voice and would not cooperate willingly with another shepherd.  Many of us have had dogs as companions.    The dogs could recognize us at a distance and come running to meet us wagging their tails.   I remember “Mike” that was given to Dad.   Mike was half German shepherd and half collie.   He would a constant companion on the farm and great to have around.

My brother, Ed, in Kansas has a smaller dog that is part Jack Russell and is full of energy.   He barked at me when I arrived at 10 p.m. last Sunday.   By the second day Buster was wagging his tail when he saw me but there was no doubt that his allegiance was with Ed.   He would do tricks for a treat like spin around in a circle, roll over, go to sleep, and give you a high five!  People will pay a lot of money when a dog has health problems.   They will also pay a lot of money to find a favorite dog that is lost.   That must be like going after the lost sheep which is probably in distress when it finds itself alone and no shepherd in sight.   When my brother and I were hiking in the woods with Buster he would run off ahead of us or to the side but would not wander too far.   When my brother would change direction he would whistle to let the dog know.   When we stopped at the Post Office my brother went in but Buster stared at the building entrance until Ed came out and immediately I could hear a tail wagging.   He wanted his Master.

I think of parents as shepherds of their children who are willing to lay down their lives to protect them.  Anyone entrusted with others who are vulnerable and need guidance has a model in the good Shepherd.  Their office cannot be just control or direction from a distance.  A true shepherd goes among the sheep with humility and gentleness until he or she, in Pope Francis’ words, “smells like the sheep.”

Mother Teresa spoke to many different groups of people.  Following a talk to wealthy suburban men and women, one of the suburbanites in the audience asked, “You have done so much to make the world a better place.  What can we do?”  Mother Teresa smiled and said simply, “Love your children.”

The questioner surely expected something far more profound, but before the person could ask another question, Mother Teresa raised her hand to stop the perplexed questioner.  “There are other things you can do,” she said, “but that is the best.  Love your children.  Love your children as much as you can.  Love your children so that they know you love them.  That is the best.”

Our reading from the first Letter of John sounds even better in light of Mother Teresa’s remarks:  see what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called the children of God!  That is what we are.

The Good Shepherd will not give up on a single sheep.  He knows each one by name, loves them so much he is willing to lay down his life to save each one.  God’s unconditional love leaps into action at the first sign of regret or repentance.  As Pope Francis has said, “We tire of asking for God’s forgiveness, but God never tires of offering it.”   God’s name is Mercy.  God cannot do otherwise, for it is God’s very nature to love and forgive.   Let us imitate the Good Shepherd and love and forgive others.