Monday, 12 May 2014

HOMILY FOR EASTER 4 A - THE GOOD SHEPHERD STM - TORONTO

“I am the good  shepherd, says the Lord, I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”


In today’s Gospel, Jesus is seen as the Good Shepherd, sent to the people of Israel who were like sheep without a shepherd ( Numbers 27:16-17). However, the Gospel proclaims that he is sent not only to the children of Israel, but to all those far off - whoever wishes to hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Messiah.

In the first reading we heard St. Peter preach – He [Jesus] is the “Lord,” the divine Son that David foresaw at God’s right hand (Psalms 110:1,3; 132:10-11; Acts 2:34).  What does it mean today that Jesus is the Messiah that God had promised to be shepherd of his scattered flock?  (Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23; 37:24).

The call of the Good Shepherd leads us to the healing waters of Baptism, to the anointing oil of Confirmation, and to the table of the bread of life and the overflowing cup of the Eucharist, as we sing in today’s Psalm. In other words, we belong to God and belong to and are called to care for each other and all others.

Today we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling us his own. He awakens in us the response of those who heard Peter’s preaching. “What are we to do?” they cried.

Individually we are to be baptized but despite our incorporation into the Body of Christ, each of us goes astray like sheep, as we hear in today’s Epistle, and so we always need to repent and to seek forgiveness for our sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

We need also to commit ourselves to the flock, to those with whom we share the road to salvation as the baptized community. The ministry of the Good Shepherd is committed to us, the holy Catholic Church of Christ ministering throughout the world.

In the Gospel we hear Jesus say: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”


As the community of the Good Shepherd then, we are part of the oldest still existing organization in the history of humanity – the Catholic Church. In the name of the Good Shepherd the Church has established the first schools and schools in many places around the world for boys and girls of every race, nation and culture. The Church today educates more people on the planet than any single organization.

Likewise in health care and aid to the suffering. No organization provides more health care or emergency relief as well as ongoing care for the poor and the suffering than the Catholic Church. We need to proclaim this truth to the secularists who would downplay and undermine the leaven that the Church is in worldwide society.

It means that we have been and are committed, for example, to the education of girls and young women. From the time of St. Marie de L’incarnation of Quebec (whose relics we are privileged to revere and pray in the presence of) the Church has been engaged in the education of young women and men.  An Ursuline nun St. Marie co-operated with the local shepherd of the flock in New France, her bishop and now fellow saint (as of April this year), St. François de Laval, first Bishop of Quebec.

This is not simply a recounting of history. These are those who, like us, are baptized into the life and ministry of the Good Shepherd. They have helped to shape the education, morals, virtues and the constitutional structure of our nation and the Western World.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

They are responsible, with us, for the principles upon which we gather with others to resist the likes of Boko Haram and Al Quida (the wolves of our day which threaten the flock) those who kidnap and murder young women who simply want the freedom to learn.

It is often the Catholic Church that first stands with girls and young women even before governments commit to their aid. It is the Church that is the first in and the last to leave situations of disaster proclaiming the love of the Good Shepherd, standing with and often suffering with those in jeopardy – note the priests and nuns kidnapped and killed while staying with their people in the horrors of Syria today.

We are called to follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd of our souls. By his suffering he bore our sins and the sins of others and he calls us, in penitence for the evil that threatens our brothers and sister, to act with him in shepherding the poor and the needy and welcoming all who will be baptized into the community of the Good Shepherd. 

Jesus’ suffering is also an example for us that we need to learn patience in our afflictions and in those of others, to give ourselves over to the will of God seeking how we may do the work of the Good Shepherd for the most vulnerable.

Jesus has gone ahead, through the dark valley of the shadow of death. On his Cross he has become the gate of the sheepfold through which we must pass to reach His empty tomb - the pastures of life in the kingdom of the Good Shepherd.

“I am the good  shepherd, says the Lord, I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”


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