Fourth Sunday, April 25, 2021: Good Shepherd Sunday
St. John’s Cathedral
The difference between the “hired man” and the Good Shepherd is that one of them dared to care, the other didn’t. The hired man was like Cain in the Old Testament, “who made me my brother’s keeper?” For him, looking after the sheep was just a job and when it came to the test, he disappeared and let the flock be attacked and scattered.
The Good Shepherd, on the other hand, cared for the flock. He really was concerned to make sure they would be protected and united. He knew it was his vocation to do so. And for that he made a promise to the sheep: “I will lay down my life for you”. Come what may, the Good Shepherd is faithful, protecting his own and keeping them united.
I was struck recently by a comment I heard about the Church: the Church starts when someone comes alongside you and, in imitation of Jesus, says, “I am ready to give my life for you”. It’s so true. The Church isn’t lifeless structures, organisations or builders. They certainly communicate, house and build Church but, ultimately, the Church comes to life when we are united in love of one another, laying down our life in small ways. It’s no surprise St. Joseph is called protector of the Church. His hidden, unnoticed day to day care of the Holy Family is an example to us all. Structures and big initiatives won’t save the Church. Our trust is in the Lord the Good Shepherd who journeys with us. And we protect that like St. Joseph by humble service of one another.
So today is a day to decide again to let the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us and is now risen be present among us. I was struck by a testimony I heard from a married couple, John and Maria. She had cystic fibrosis already before they were married but her health deteriorated much quicker than they had expected. She had lung transplants. Recently, her lung condition has further deterioration and now she has diabetes. But John and Maria shared how they live this experience with all its ups and downs in the light of the Cross of Jesus. Their way of laying down their lives now is to accept this Cross, live it together, allow themselves be helped, be humble, live the present moment together.
So today I think we can take away three invitations from this Gospel.
First. It’s a day to express gratitude to Jesus the Good Shepherd for the ways he has been present in our lives. It is good to spend a silent moment in prayer recollecting all those moments when we’ve felt we’ve been protected, helped, guided back from being scattered and feeling united. They were moments of the Good Shepherd.
Second. Decide in our hearts to let the Good Shepherd be present and work through us by taking the measure he has given us of how to care: lay down your life for others in your day to day life.
Thirdly today is also a day to consider the need for priests who allow the Good Shepherd be present among us sacramentally in preaching God’s word, celebrating the sacraments and building up the community. Let’s pray that more young men will listen to the voice of the Spirit inside them encouraging them to lay down their life in the way of following the Good Shepherd as a priest. And let’s too the ministry of priests today in our live. If we get a chance, we might send them a text or quick call.
Yes, today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The Good Shepherd isn’t just good. The actual original Greek word used in the Gospel is “beautiful”. All over the world, people have been attracted by this Beautiful Shepherd whose love has touched them deeply, the love that still today dares to care for us.