"Most High, glorious God, cast Your Light into the darkness of my heart, and grant me a right faith, certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may know and do Your holy and true command."
- St. Francis of Assisi: Prayer before the Crucifix
Saturday, April 20, 2013
You be Jesus! You be the good shepherd!
HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, Good Shepherd Sunday, April 21, 2013: .
mother was preparing pancakes for her young sons, David and Billy. The boys began to argue over who would get
the first pancake. Their mother saw the
opportunity to teach the boys a good moral lesson and said, “Boys, if Jesus
were sitting here, He would say ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can
wait.’” And so, David turned to his
younger brother and said, “Billy, you be Jesus!”
heard in our Gospel passage today, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and
they follow me.” As we gather on this beautiful Sunday morning, the Church invites
us to celebrate today the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The images presented in Scripture today lead
us to more commonly refer to this as Good Shepherd Sunday. We have this powerful and tender image of Jesus
as the Good Shepherd and so it is a good time to think about, talk about and
pray about the need for more vocations. And
we are so grateful for the very good shepherds that we have in our lives – our local
priests and bishops; our past Popes and our new Pope Francis. We know that shepherds are good for us. They lead us and they guide us; they keep us
safe and help us to follow Christ more closely.
in Jesus’ time, there were basically two kinds of shepherds. There was the hired
hand for whom keeping the sheep was just an available job. He moved from flock
to flock depending on conditions and would not risk his life for the sheep.
Seeing danger he would flee and leave the sheep untended. But, then there was the shepherd-owner of the
flock who grew up with the flock and stayed with the same sheep all his life.
He knew each and every one individually. He called them by name and knew
everything about them – which ones were strong, which were weak; which ones
might stray or get into trouble and so he would watch out for them. And when
there was danger, he would risk his life to defend his sheep. And Jesus tells
us that this is the kind of shepherd He is.
typically, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we talk about the need for vocations, the
need to pray for priests – I want you to do that; you know that we need more
priests. But today, after the week that
we have had in our beloved Commonwealth, I wanted to talk about the Good
Shepherd in just a slightly different way.
You see I’ve been thinking about good shepherds a lot this week. You
might feel like me that the terror of these events this week cut a little too
close to home. I live in downtown Boston
and my family is in New Bedford. I
attended UMass Dartmouth after high school where one of the terrorists attends; my sister works at
the supermarket in New Bedford where they apparently shopped. This all cut too close to home quite
But, in the midst of this difficult week, I
also saw something else, something moving, something beautiful. Remember that the good shepherd lays down his
life for his sheep. I don’t know about
you, but this week I saw a city, a region, a commonwealth and a nation full of
good shepherds; full of people ready to lay their lives on the line for others. I saw a whole lot of people responding to
that call – “You be Jesus.” In the
immediate aftermath of bomb blasts people didn’t run away, they ran towards the
danger, just like a good shepherd would.
They ran to help and comfort and carry and tend. I saw police officers and other law enforcement;
doctors and nurses and EMS workers; and mayors, governors and even presidents. I saw just plain good folk; good neighbors
reaching out and offering helping hands.
While some might want to focus on the evil acts of two men, let’s not
forget the heroic and holy acts of good shepherds just about everywhere else
you look this week.
You see, the point is that Jesus isn’t the
only Good Shepherd. Priests and
religious aren’t the only ones called to be good shepherds. We are all called to be Jesus. We are all called to be good shepherds. And so, you be Jesus and you be Jesus and you
and you and you.
This week has been
a simple but powerful reminder that evil is not of God and evil cannot overcome
us. A simple but powerful reminder that darkness cannot overcome
darkness; only light can. Sometimes evil breaks into our otherwise
peaceful existence and we are rocked by it. But, our response must be a
response of light, must be a response of love, must be a response of goodness
and holiness and peace. Yes, there was an explosion; yes, there was a moment
of evil; and immediately people ran, but not away, they ran towards those who
were injured. They ran in to be that presence of goodness in the midst of confusion
and pain. They were good shepherds. And isn’t this what God always does? He runs in bringing His loving and consoling presence
to conquer the darkness.
And so as we
gather on this Good Shepherd Sunday, God is calling us all once again to be
good shepherds. As the nation and the
world looks to us, God has something He wants to say and He wants to speak through
you and me. But, Evil wants to
speak too. Evil wants to speak in each one of us with words of hatred and
vengeance and fear. Don't let it speak. Let God speak instead
through us as good shepherds; let Him speak words of love and kindness and
compassion and LIGHT.
On this Good
Shepherd Sunday, we do need more good shepherds – but those shepherds are
us. God is inviting us to be the good
shepherds of His flock today. He is inviting us to speak the words that He
places in our hearts - to speak them loudly to the world so it will know that we
will always be a people defined by care and compassion; by love and joy; by
faith and hope and, especially in this Eastertide, by a Savior who has come
into the world to conquer even death itself and lead us to a newness of life
that no one – no one – can ever take away.
So, David was
right – you be Jesus! You be a good