|Image source: SheepShed|
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter:
Good Shepherd Sunday
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)
“My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus the Good Shepherd,
“and they follow me…”
You and I are meant to hear the voice of Jesus in church, in the liturgy:
in his Word, in our prayer and song, and in that Holy Communion
through which he speaks his love for us most eloquently.
And we’re meant to hear the voice of Jesus through the Church,
through her teaching, her mission and her works.
But sometimes the clear, true, trustworthy voice of Jesus is drowned out
by the noise (or the silence), the deeds (or the idleness)
of shepherds who failed to care lovingly
for the youngest of the lambs in the flock.
Sometimes it’s not easy to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
And because this is Good Shepherd Sunday,
the Church chooses this date
as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations,
a day to pray for more to hear and answer Jesus’ call
to follow him in ministry and religious life.
When I was in high school I was fairly certain
I wanted to become either a lawyer or a teacher
- until a schoolmate, Kathy Toomey, said to me one day,
“I think you’d be a good priest.”
My parents had never said that to me.
The Sisters and the priest at the Catholic high school I attended
had never said that to me.
Nor had I ever heard God say that to me in my prayer.
But I have no doubt that God chose to use Kathy Toomey’s voice
to plant an idea in my mind and my heart,
an idea which, once planted, I could not uproot and trust me:
over the years there were times when I tried very hard
to uproot that calling from the soil of my life.
Jesus, speaking to me through the voice of Kathy Toomey…
Jesus is the master impressionist of all time!
He has more voices than we could ever possibly imagine
and he’s speaking with them and through them - always -
and often in voices we don’t expect the Lord to assume.
Consider the scriptures we’ve heard in the last month...
Jesus spoke to us through the voice of Peter
who three times denied he even knew the Lord.
Jesus spoke to us through the voice of Mary Magdalene
whose words the apostles thought were foolish nonsense.
Jesus spoke to us through the voice of Thomas
who doubted that the Lord had risen from the dead.
And Jesus spoke to us through the voice of Paul
whose first cause was the persecution of Christ’s followers.
Jesus sometimes assumes the voices
we'd least expect him to use to speak to us.
I’ll even be bold enough to say that Jesus speaks to you through me -
and no one knows better than Jesus how the foolish mistakes
of my words and my silence, my deeds and my idleness
have denied, doubted and harmed the Body of Christ.
Still, he speaks through me and through my brokenness.
Jesus speaks to us through voices:
sometimes faithful and sometimes unfaithful;
sometimes clear as a bell and sometimes impossible to understand;
voices whose truth is sometimes matched by their deeds
and voices whose deeds sometime betray their words.
Kathy told me she thought I’d be a good priest after informing me
that she’d filled out a request card for “more information”
and sent it to a vocation director with my name on it!
I was angry that she had done this without my knowledge.
But then I began to hear the voice behind Kathy’s words
and I heard the Shepherd calling me to follow him as a priest.
I’m grateful that I listened beyond my anger to Kathy’s words -
consider the difference that has made in my life...
Some voices in today’s Church are
weak, confusing, confounding, broken and maddening -
so much so that we fail or refuse to hear the voices that are
strong, clarifying, confirming, whole and faithful.
I have no doubt that Jesus continues to speak to us faithfully
in the Church’s prayer and through her teaching, mission and works,
- even in a Church as broken as our own is.
“My sheep hear my voice,” said Jesus, “and they follow me…”
How are we to follow him if we do not hear his voice
and where better to hear his voice, even in these times,
than in the company of those who follow him
and in the tradition of those who have followed him
for some 2,000 years.
There is no place where Jesus speaks his faithful love for us more clearly
than here at the table of the Eucharist.
As the Shepherd and the Father are one,
so does the Shepherd make himself one with us
in the sacrament of this altar.
Let nothing, let no one
separate us from the love of Christ
and the Holy Communion we celebrate here,
in and through the flock of his body, the Church.
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