May 15, 2011
Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
There is an old story about a famous actor who after performing soliloquies for a dinner gathering read as an encore Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd”. The audience was very impressed and gave him a standing
ovation. When they finished he spotted an elderly priest in the crowd and invited him to come and recite the same psalm. With a weak voice and true heart the old priest stood up and recited the psalm and when he
finished there was a still silence in the crowd and a few tears on people’s cheeks. The actor stood up and said, “Do you see what just happened, I read the psalm with great passion to great adulation because I knew the psalm, this priest read the psalm with great heart and moved us because he knows the Shepherd.”
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. We remember that Jesus is the “shepherd and guardian” of our souls who leads us through the gate to salvation. Jesus is the gate, the only true way to happiness here and to eternal happiness. Others who lead without the truth of Christ are thieves and robbers. Thieves steal by trickery, robbers steal by force, and both leave their victims with less then they came with. Their concern is not the good of the sheep, but their own personal good. Jesus the Good Shepherd, on the other hand, knows His sheep and they know Him. He loves them and always leads them to greener pastures and to a better life. He walks ahead of His sheep and lays down His life for them.
The image of the Good Shepherd originates in the Old Testament. The king was often thought of as the shepherd of his people
leading and guiding the nation selflessly to property and safety. God Himself is the only true King who truly shepherds His people. Psalm 23 reminds us that when we are guided by the Lord we will not want. We will be totally fulfilled in this life when we place our lives in the care of the Good Shepherd. He will bring us to verdant pastures and restful waters. Our physical needs will be met, but more important our souls will be refreshed. As we come to the celebration of the Eucharist our sins are forgiven, we are nourished by the word of God and the Body and Blood of our Lord.
When we follow the Good Shepherd completely, only goodness and kindness will follow us. Yes we will still face hardship, suffering and pain, but our crooked lines will be made straight and even though we will walk through the dark valley we will not fear. We will know always that we have the loving presence of our Shepherd who will be at our side with His rod and staff to lead and guide us and give us the courage through all the trials that we will encounter throughout our lives.
This world is filled with voices that would lead us in different directions. None of them are the voice of the Good Shepherd. We are bombarded with sounds and visions that are not of God that inspire us to live self centered lives. They offer all forms of allurements of this world that report to give us instant pleasure and happiness. We can even lose weight through simple procedures and spare the trials of diets and exercise. None of these voices are going to lead us towards true happiness. Through violence or trickery they are going to rob us of our treasure and souls and leave us desolate and alone.
It is only the voice of the Good Shepherd that will lead to happiness. The more we recognize the voice of the Shepherd, the easier it will be for us to follow Him through the challenging moments of our lives. As a priest I recognize the difference in the response
people of faith have when they encounter deep crisis in their lives. We all recognize the calm and peace of people of prayer. One of the wonderful gifts we have at Mary Star of the Sea is the adoration chapel where we can go 24/7 to spend time in prayer listening to the voice of our Shepherd. This Sunday invites us to hear the voice of the Shepherd and enter through His gate to peace, prosperity and happiness.
This Sunday at the 5:00 P.M. Mass Bishop Oscar Solis will be Confirming the Holy Spirit upon the young men and women of our parish. As they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation we pray that they will be open to God’s loving presence throughout their lives. As they become fully initiated as Adult Catholics they will be empowered with the gifts of the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We pray that they will respond to the gifts given to them and in a more profound way come to know the shepherd.
Rev John F. Provenza