Monday, 27 April 2015

Good Shepherd Sunday

In the Gospel today, Jesus says that he is the good shepherd, the one whom the prophets had promised to Israel. Jesus is the shepherd-prince, the new David, THE Messiah or Saviour — the one who frees people from bondage to sin and gathers them into one flock, the Church, under a new covenant.

Christ’s flock includes other sheep, far more than the dispersed children (the lost sheep) of Israel (Isaiah 56:8; John 11:52).  God has given the Church, and her shepherds the mission of witnessing to this unity and shepherding all peoples to the Father.
The First Reading, tells us about the beginnings of the shepherding mission. We hear of this in the testimony of Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of his Church, the Vicar of Christ and our first Holy Father, Papa or Pope, the first Bishop of Rome.
Through the ministry of the Church, the shepherd still speaks (Luke 10:16) and is present to all through His body and blood conveying grace and unity at every Mass. This is the mission of Jesus who continues to work in and through us, all those who follow the Good Shepherd, until all are one flock under one shepherd.
Jesus made it possible for us to be one by laying down his life and taking it up again. As sons and daughters of the Father who loves us we hear in today’s Epistle God’s call to all his children in the same way that God called Israel. God led them out of Egypt, as a shepherd leads a flock and made a covenant with them (Ex 4:22-23).
The Apostles, who saw with their own eyes the Risen Christ, could not keep silent about their extraordinary experience. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who had laid down his life now revealed himself as the risen Lord to the Apostles so that the truth of his resurrection could reach everyone through their witness, a witness which invites and draws all into the flock of Christ.

The Church’s purpose is to extend this mission. Every baptized person is called to give witness, in their words and in their lives, that Jesus is risen, that he is alive and present among us.

Who is a witness? The witness is one who has seen, who remembers, who retells the story and who manifests a life changed by the resurrection of Jesus. To see, to remember, to tell and to live are verbs that describe the identity and mission of the Church, a mission with ethical and political dimensions as well.

St. Thomas More took issue with the view of Machiavelli, in his day in the 16th century. Machiavelli  held that ethics could be severed from politics. As a Catholic Christian STM insisted that our decision to follow the Good Shepherd must affect all areas of life and bring human will into conformity with the will of the Good Shepherd.  Not the triumph of the will but the loving and graceful melding of individual will to the good, to God.

The witness of the Apostles is the witness of those who have seen objectively, have seen a reality which they profess. Of course this is not with indifferent eyes; they have seen as those involved in the events and the meaning of the passion and resurrection. That is why the witnesses remember, not simply because they have seen the events, but also because those facts have spoken to the witnesses who grasp their profound meaning. The witnesses recount, not in a cold and detached way, but as those who from that day they have had their lives changed they have sought to live by grace like the Good Shepherd, prepared to lay down their lives for the flock of Christ. Just as Jesus did, so many of them also gave their lives as martyrs for the truth of Christ and his saving grace.

The content of a Christian witness is not, then, a theory, an ideology or a complex system of precepts and prohibitions, or even a morality. Rather it is a message of salvation, of a concrete event, of the life of a Person: it is Christ Jesus risen and living as the Good Shepherd and Saviour of all humanity.

Jesus can be witnessed to by those who have had a personal experience of him, in prayer, in the family of the Church, through a path that has its foundation in Baptism, its nourishment in the Eucharist, its seal in Confirmation, its continuing conversion in Penance.

Thanks to this path, always guided by the Good Shepherd, every Christian becomes a witness of Jesus risen. And our witness is all the more credible the more it is evident by a way of living that is evangelical, joyful, courageous, meek, peaceful, merciful. 

If the Christian lets himself be taken by comfort, by vanity, by selfishness, he becomes deaf and blind to the question of the "resurrection" of so many brothers. How can he communicate the living Jesus, how can he communicate the liberating power of Jesus Christ, his infinite tenderness?

The Holy Father said the following this: Dear brothers and sisters,
In these hours, news is coming in concerning a new tragedy in the waters of the Mediterranean. A boat carrying migrants has capsized last night roughly 60 miles off the Libyan coast and it is feared that there are hundreds of victims. I express my deepest sorrow in the face of such a tragedy and I assure for those lost and their families my remembrance in prayer. I address a heartfelt appeal so that the international community acts decisively and promptly, to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. They were men and women like us! Our brothers and sisters who are looking for a better life. Hungry, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war, they were looking for a better life.

So let us witness to the saving grace and power of the risen Lord, the Good Shepherd, who inspires and strengthens us to love, care for, assist and draw all into the on flock under the one Shepherd.

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