May 12, 2019 Fourth Sunday of Easter~ Mother's Day Deacon Steve Whiteman

Reading 1 ACTS 13:14, 43-52

 Responsorial Psalm PS 100:1-2, 3, 5

R.(3c) We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Reading 2 REV 7:9, 14B-17

Alleluia JN 10:14

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
    I know my sheep, and mine know me.

Gospel JN 10:27-30

 Mother’s Day      be a superfan of the Good Shephard

Fourth Sunday of Easter
If you watch sports on TV the cameras often focus on the “super fans”. You may have seen them, or know one yourself. The super fan will often go to great lengths to stand out in the crowd with outrageous clothes, signs or body paint. Their team spirit and dedication as a fan are unwavering. Their enthusiasm is contagious and they will often lead fellow fans sitting around them through the emotional roller coaster of a game.

I was reminded of the super fans when I saw the 2nd reading and the Gospel for today. In Revelations and the Gospel of St. John, we hear the familiar image of the Good Shepherd leading His sheep “to springs of life-giving water”. Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Can we learn something from the super fans on TV to make us more devoted followers of Jesus? The dedication of the super fan following their team each week may seem excessive, but in reality, Jesus is calling us to a higher level. His challenge to hear His voice and follow Him doesn’t require body paint and a custom jersey but the commitment and perseverance of a devoted follower of Jesus should be envied by any super fan.

To help us with this comparison, let us start with some background on the life of a shepherd in the time of Jesus. George Adam Smith was an Old Testament scholar who travelled extensively in Palestine. Instead of the endless fields of green we are used to seeing in Iowa, Smith described the pastures in Judaea as “thinly scattered over an unfenced track of land.” In order to survive, the sheep had to be grazed over miles of land full of wild animals with an unreliable water supply. This life was difficult and dangerous for the shepherd and the sheep. The dedication of a shepherd to his sheep was well known in the time of Jesus. Christians in the 1st century who heard Jesus describe Himself as “the Good Shepherd” would have had a great appreciation for His meaning.

So what does it look like to be a follower of Jesus, the Good Shepherd in this day and age?

How do we hear His the voice of Jesus and follow Him?

If we look at examples from the super fan we may get some clues. There are certainly some behaviors to avoid but several examples we can learn from.

The super fan gives us some great examples in terms of organization and planning. Scheduling conflicts on game day are avoided at all cost. The super fan would never dream of coming to the game late or leaving early. What to wear and eat on game day also takes careful planning. Our challenge as a Catholic is to put that same level of organization and planning into weekend Mass.

The super fan knows a lot about their team…players, coaches, statistics and the annual draft. Several hours per week may be spent keeping up to date by watching TV or on the internet. Our challenge as a follower of Jesus is to put this same time and energy into learning about our faith.

If we want to become a better follower of Jesus there are some aspects of a super fan’s life we may want to avoid. Today let us just consider one: the noise. Noise during the game and the increasing volume of our world is a challenge for everyone. Fortunately finding peace and quiet is something we can usually control in our lives: turn off the TV, mute the phone and schedule some quiet time on your calendar. Even a few minutes of conscious silence will give our hearts and minds a chance to open up and listen.

Finding peace and quiet in our lives is important because of our Gospel today. Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Discerning how God is calling us to follow Him can be a challenge but it’s certainly easier when we make time to listen in silence.  

Dr. Edward Sri is a theologian and best selling author. His book, “Into His Likeness”, challenges us to be more aware of God’s calling in our life. We won’t likely see visions or angels but might have a sense we need to make a change in our life or help someone we meet. These little nudges from God or promptings from the Holy Spirit, are moments when Jesus is inviting us to follow Him more closely. They can happen in the midst of our everyday lives but we need to be careful they aren’t drowned out by the noise and distractions in our world.

Dr. Sri’s book asks an important question: are we a true follow of Jesus or just a fan? Do we have the commitment to follow the Good Shepherd through the good times and bad or just want to wear the team colors on game day?

When we commit to following Jesus, we recognize our need for His help. We entrust Him with our plans, our hopes and desires. When we surrender our lives to God we can discover a fullness of life at a deeper level because His plan for us is better than we could ever dream of on our own. There is a deeper peace, joy and sense of purpose that comes when we live for Christ and not for ourselves.

Of course, problems don’t go away. Suffering will always exist in this world but we can take comfort in the “right paths” on which the Good Shepherd leads us. “He restores our soul” and leads us “to springs of life-giving water”. He is there to help us celebrate the joys in life and when we experience sorry, He “will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes.”

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, let us give thanks to all those who have had a maternal role in our lives. Let us ask the Blessed Mother to pray we have the faith we need to become a more devoted follower of her son, the Good Shephard. 


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