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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Reflection/Homily: Fourth (4th) Sunday of Easter Year C (Good Shepherd Sunday)



Theme: Jesus the Good Shepherd

At the time of Jesus, Messianism (the belief in a messiah who is to come) was a popular belief. The Jews were anticipating a King from the tribe of David who would gather together the scattered Jewish race, restore peace in the land and usher in the messianic age. This messiah would be a comforter, a redeemer and the prince of peace but more importantly, he would be a political messiah who would free the Jews from the authority of the Romans. Some Jews saw Jesus as this long awaited messiah and went ahead to ask him if he was the messiah. Instead of satisfying their curiosity in plain language, Jesus went ahead to reveal what kind of messiah he is in metaphor.

In today’s gospel passage (John 10:27-30), we see part of the response Jesus gave to these Jews who came to confirm his messiahship. He confirmed his messiahship by describing himself as a shepherd. It thus became clear that Jesus’ messiahship was not about stardom or political might but about service and sacrifice. He would have described himself with popular images like that of a caring father or loving mother. But by describing himself as a shepherd, he perhaps wanted to emphasize his obligation, mission and vision with qualities unique to shepherds.

Like a shepherd is obliged to make himself available for his flock at all times, Jesus’ messiahship obliges him also to make himself available for his people even to the point of giving up his life for them. He wanted to be with them here on earth and have them be with him there in heaven. As the mission of a shepherd is to care for his flock, Jesus’ messiahship also entrusts him with the mission of caring for his people. That is why he is involved in the spiritual and physical plights of his people. Like a shepherd with a brighter vision of reality because of his rationality, Jesus has a brighter vision of reality because of his divinity. That is why he can identify the enemy, instruct and direct us as a shepherd does for his flock.

Today’s liturgy therefore challenges us in three ways. Firstly, it challenges us to trust in God and never to be despaired no matter the ugly events of our lives, because our shepherd is always there to lead us to greener pastures and make our cups overflow with good wine. That is why the responsorial psalm reminds us that “We are his people, the sheep of his flock”. That means, as a shepherd never departs from his flock or allow them to be endangered, Jesus will never depart from us or allow us to be endangered. As a shepherd leads his flock to greener pastures, Jesus is leading us to a better life here on earth and to an eternal life there in heaven.

 Secondly, today’s liturgy challenges us to be the “listening sheep”. Jesus emphasized the qualities of his sheep when he said: “My sheep hear my voice… and they follow me”. As the sheep of Christ’s flock, do we listen to his voice in the words of the Sacred Scripture and in the teachings of the Church? How do we follow Christ our shepherd? Do we have compassion for the poor as he did? Do we pray as he prayed and do we have passion for the things of God as he had? In our world today, priests are always there to help us hear the voice of Jesus and follow him through the celebration of the Word and Sacraments. How do we respond to their ministry as representatives of Christ who act in the person of Christ the head? Do we take advantage of their ministry to listen to the Word of God and receive the sacraments frequently?

Thirdly, today otherwise known as Vocations Sunday, we are challenged to pray for and support more vocation to the priesthood and religious life in other to assist more people hear the voice of this shepherd and follow him. Our world needs an increase in vocation to attend to the spiritual needs of our increasing population and we are challenged to make this possible with our prayers and support. Our prayers will inspire and motivate more young people to respond positively to their divine call and our support will enable them perform their tasks well. How far have you promoted vocations to the priesthood and religious life? Do you encourage the ministers of God or do you ridicule them? How have you attended to your parish priest, chaplain, the seminarian or sister working in your parish? Resolve today to pray for them to be better people even when you think they are not living up to expectations.

The first reading (Acts 13:14, 42-52) presents Paul and Barnabas to us as examples for ministers of today. The Church needs ministers who will remain undaunted in their vocation especially now there are more temptations. The life of every priest and religious should mirror the life of Christ the true shepherd of souls. We need religious men and women who will utilize every means to preach the Word of God with passion by word and deed, people who will lay down their lives for the sake of the faith. Such are the people the second reading (Rev. 7:9, 14-17) assures us will stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.

Therefore beloved friends, today the Lord tells you “Do not be afraid”. As the shepherd of your soul, he is there for you. All you need to do is to trust him, listen to his voice and follow him. In other to do this better, we have to co-operate with and pray for our priests and religious who will assist us encounter the risen Lord in our difficult situations. Do you feel a strong desire to serve the Lord as a priest or religious? Then you have to pray and work towards its actualization. God loves you.

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