Saturday, May 2, 2009
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
1 John 3:1-2
Nobody likes to be pushed around.
We bristle when someone bumps or shoves us in line.
Many of us don’t like to be told what to do:
we’d rather figure it out ourselves or do it our own way.
Ours is a culture suspicious of those in power.
As the bumper sticker advises us: “Question authority!”
“Having it our way” is something we want in many venues,
not just when we ordering at Burger King.
For some, the only authority respected is the individual’s authority
to declare all other authority subject to itself.
So what do we make, then,
of the authority Jesus proposes in the gospel today:
the authority of a shepherd?
This is authority rooted in his willingness
to lay down his life for those in his care…
The authority of a shepherd who cares for those in his charge
as a mother cares for a child, as a father cares for his own,
as a firefighter waits for the rescue,
as a soldier or sailor keeps watch on the front line,
as a police officer patrols the streets to keep the peace…
What do we make of the authority of a shepherd
who spends the day gently herding his flock together,
pulling in the strays, finding green pastures for rest and grazing;
and all through the night keeping watch lest the predator
prevail upon the vulnerable?
What do we make of the authority of the shepherd
who has a name for each of his sheep, who knows each name,
who calls each name
until each sheep comes to know the shepherd’s voice
and trusts it, follows it, delights in hearing it?
What do we make of the authority of a shepherd whose highest hope
is the safety, the well-being, the peace of the flock?
Would we follow such a shepherd?
Learn to know his voice and trust it?
Rest in the care he promises?
Such is the image of authority Jesus offers us
for the Church and its leaders, for the people of the Church,
and for all of us in our own relationships.
Can the Church make its own the authority of a shepherd
gentle enough to carry a lamb, strong enough to tame a ram;
bold enough to stand against the wolf?
Can the Church’s leaders trust the Good Shepherd Jesus
to be the strong and gentle model for their authority?
Can the people of the Church trust its shepherds;
to lead them as does Jesus with the crook of mercy
and the staff of justice?
Might we, at home, at work, and at school;
in our marriages, in our parenting,
in our families and friendships:
model ourselves on the Shepherd in how we exercise
whatever authority is ours in each of our relationships?
Jesus has all the power and authority of God right in his back pocket
but he chooses not to overwhelm or overpower us with it.
Instead, he takes charge of us by gently leading, firmly guiding,
wisely urging us to stay with the flock, in the embrace of his care.
And he calls us to shepherd one another in just the same way.
In the gospel, Jesus offers himself to us a shepherd
and he offers himself as the lamb, led to the slaughter on the Cross.
As a shepherd he promised to
“prepare a table for us in the sight of our foes”
and this he does each week at the altar of the Eucharist
where the paschal lamb, slain for us,
feeds and shepherds us in the life that is his alone to give.
May we who are nourished at the Shepherd’s table
shepherd one another as gently, as firmly, as wisely
as does Jesus shepherd us.
Posted by Austin Fleming at 8:08 PM