2nd Sunday after Easter (Good Shepherd) – Tucson – 2020
Good morning and blessed Good Shepherd Sunday to you all. Today as we celebrate Our Lord as the Good Shepherd, the apostolates of the Institute of Christ the King take up a 2nd collection to support our international seminary in Florence, Italy which forms the men who will be your pastors in the future. Our religious community has one seminary where all our priests are formed together very close to Rome, the heart of the Church. Our seminary is funded by seminarians’ tuition, by benefactors in our apostolates and by your generous donations. You can donate by going on our website, saintgianna.net and clicking “donate” and there is an option to contribute to our “International Seminary.” Thank you for supporting our seminary which forms your priests of tomorrow and may God bless you for your generosity.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for His sheep.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
When you were a child, were you ever bullied? Were you ever threatened? Were you ever punched or attacked? Were you ever scared of an oppressor as there would be no way for you to defend yourself? If so, then you probably became extremely fearful, sad, and maybe you despaired. If only you would have been lucky enough to have an older sibling to stand up for you against your oppressor. If only you had a friend whose strength was a fit for the “tough guy.” Then, you could stand behind him and you would feel protected, you would feel safe, and maybe a spark of bravery would arise in you. Then you would owe your hero a tremendous amount of gratitude because they freed you from your doom, from your oppressor, and from your fears.
Today we celebrate our eternal hero, our eternal liberator, our eternal protector and savior, Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. We were doomed to death, we were chained to sin, we were led to the pit of Hell and our accuser would’ve be happy to push us off the cliff. But Our Lord stepped up, He took our place, He stood His ground, and through His humility toward His own unjust accusers, through His obedience to the Cross, and through His love for humanity, He defeated our “spiritual bully.” As the Good Shepherd is our defender, as by faith we believe that He is the Son of God, what should we fear? “If God is with us, who can be against us?”
In last week’s Gospel we heard of the beautiful account of Our risen Lord saying to His fearful Apostles: 1) Peace be to you as He showed them His hands and His side. 2) Peace be to you as He gave them the power to forgive sins. 3) Peace be to you as He gently called the doubting Thomas to belief in His divinity and in His resurrection. My dear faithful, this is our Good Shepherd: First, He comes to us and shows His wounds to us. Second, He remains in our midst. And thirdly, He will be ours for all eternity.
Now, if Christ is the Shepherd, then we are the sheep. He is our protector, our guide, our instructor, our doctor and physician, and our hope. Christ already witnessed His love for us in instituting the Sacrament of love, which is the Holy Eucharist. Christ already witnessed His love for us in laying down His life for us. Christ already witnessed His love for us in appearing to His disciples the day of His Resurrection to bring them His peace and joy. He said to them: “Going therefore teach ye all nations… teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” If He is with us, what then dear friends are we to fear? Is there someone more powerful than Our Good Shepherd? Is Our Good Shepherd ever negligent? What more can Our Good Shepherd do for us that He has not already done?
St. Peter says in today’s Epistle: “Dearly beloved, Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow His steps who did not sin, neither was guild found in His mouth.” If the sheep follow the Shepherd, there is no danger. But those of us, who have spent time on farms, know that sheep are not always the most intelligent. They get into trouble and they need someone to rescue them. Sin is trouble for our souls. We know what not to do but we do it. We know what to do, but our sloth and luke-warmness obstruct us from our duties. Christ gave us the example, but we did not follow. And, well, neither did the Apostles. And Our Risen Lord still gave them His merciful peace on Easter Sunday, and even more, He gave them greater responsibility, in making them His fellow shepherds in the vineyard of the Church for the salvation of souls as He breathed on them and sent them out just as He was sent by the Father.
Every shepherd must be equipped with a crook, a staff with a hook at the end. But how does Jesus stick out his shepherd’s crook to pull us out of the thicket, out of thorns, out of quick-sand, and out from the rushing waters? By Confession. Remember, Our Lord said to His Apostles last Sunday: “Peace be to you: as the Father hath sent Me, I also send you” and He “breathed on them and He said to them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” It is by the Holy Ghost, the Divine Person of Love and Mercy, Who works in the Sacrament of Confession, that we are restored to the flock of Our Good Shepherd. We were in danger because of our sins. Like foolish sheep, we were trapped by the spiritual diseases that we contracted, the spiritual thickets of desire, the spiritual thorns of lust, the spiritual quick-sand of pride, and we were carried away by the rushing waters of anger. But it is our shepherd’s crook of the Holy Ghost that calls us back, that calls us to repentance, and it is the Holy Ghost that calls us to Confession to be restored to the flock of Our Good Shepherd. By divine faith, we know that after mortal sin, it is the Sacramental Confession that restores us to the flock of Sanctifying Grace. But we would be negligent, if we would think we only need to come to this Sacrament of Mercy if we have a mortal sin to confess. St. Francis de Sales, a fellow shepherd of souls, instructs us: “Confess yourself frequently, humbly, and devoutly, even though your conscience should not reproach you with the guild of mortal sin. By confession you not only receive absolution from the sins you confess, but likewise a great strength to avoid them in the future, light to discern them well, and abundant grace to repair all the damage you may have sustained by them. You will practice the virtues of humility, obedience, sincerity, and charity. In this one act of confession you shall exercise more virtues than in any other whatsoever.” Just as sheep need to get washed so that their wool is pure, so by coming to Confession, we receive purification, strength, divine light, and the necessary virtues to remain closer to our Good Shepherd in the future. Let us heed God’s call to repentance which has recently been manifested by this coronavirus pandemic. The world has been pushed to it’s knees. But will it convert? Will it do penance?
Unfortunately though, some sheep may be scared of the shepherd – his crook has a point, his crook has a hook to recover the sheep by the neck or a leg. Sometimes, foolish sheep flee the shepherd out of misguided fear for their own protector. He tries to go after them, and they run away. The more the shepherd tries, the farther they go into greater danger. - Sometimes hardened sinners find the Catholic Faith and Catholic Morality too difficult, so they ignore it or run in the opposing direction. The Church’s teaching on homosexuality, on abortion, on contraception, on purity, on chastity, on modesty… seems too difficult to them so they run away. We can respond, yes, there may be a point at the end of the Good Shepherd’s crook, but that is to pull us back into the flock. The Flock where we can have true freedom, true happiness, true joy, and true pleasure that would perfectly satisfy us. The crook is stiff to help us better remain in the flock by the firmness of Christ’s teaching.
But the shepherd’s crook is also used to ward off the persecutor. St. Peter warns us: “Brothers: be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seek whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.” If Christ is the Good Shepherd, if we are the sheep of His flock, then there must be someone or something He is protecting us from. The devil is as a lion seeking to devour us. For the past 50 years, the word “Pastoral” has been used as an excuse to water down, dilute, and confuse many Catholic faithful. A true pastor of souls ought to remember that among the 7 spiritual works of mercy are these three: to correct the sinner, instruct the ignorant, and counsel the doubting. The greatest danger of the flock is false teaching. A true pastor calls out the danger, he does not water it down, he does not dilute it, nor confuse the sheep. The danger for souls has been the same since the time of Adam and Eve. There are 7 deadly sins that encompass all and we need to develop virtue to strengthen us against our predominant faults. A true pastor of souls remains faithful to the perennial and constant teachings of the Church. Beware of pastors who do not know Church History nor theology of the Church Fathers and Scholastics. The Divine Truth and doctrine of Our Good Shepherd does not change with the seasons. Jesus is the Truth, not one of many truths, nor a changing truth. He is constant and so should be the pastors of Jesus Christ.
But false shepherds are also calling us into their pastures where they promise a happier life, and easier life, or a life of pleasure. But what good do these heretical pastors have that Our Lord doesn’t have? Is Christ not the creator of all that is good? Do not be deceived by their lies. During Our Lord’s life, He was firm and strong in defending the truth by laying down His very life. He chased out the moneychangers so that His house would be a house of prayer. He made is clear that our hearts had to be pure as He sees all our thoughts. Just as Christ used the firmness of His shepherd’s crook to defend the glory of His Father, so true pastors, who have the shepherd’s crook by their office given to them by Almighty God, must also be diligent and watchful defending the flock from the devil, from false teaching of false pastors, and from the predominant faults of the age.
My dear faithful, as we are comforted today by the tender love of Jesus Christ as our Divine Good Shepherd, may our fear be dispelled. Let us not be afraid of His crook used by the Holy Ghost to pull us from the spiritual dangers that we have fallen into. Let us run back to the Confessional so that we may enter the flock through the Sacrament of Mercy. Our Good Shepherd showed His love for us in laying down His very life for us to win us back to Himself. He rose from the dead and immediately gave His merciful grace to His disciples to restore their faith and take away their fear. Let us give thanks to our Good Shepherd for His love and His Mercy. And finally, let us not fear any evil, let us not fear any danger, let us not fear any oppressor, for we have a strong and powerful Savior, Who is our Loving and Good Shepherd and calls us each by name.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
1- John 20:11-12.
2- Romans 8:31.
3- Mt 28:20
6- Intro, Chp.2, pg.19. Living Jesus - 0120