Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
In naming himself our good shepherd,
Jesus reminds us that he knows us:
“I know my sheep, and they know me.”
The Lord knows me -- the Lord knows you --
the Lord knows everyone of us
better than anyone else knows us or possibly could know us.
The Lord knows me infinitely better than I know myself.
Now, consider what all this means.
It means the Lord knows every one of my faults,
he knows all of my secrets;
he knows things about me that no one else knows;
he knows things about me that I don’t know;
he knows my every thought and desire;
he knows everything I don’t want anyone else to know about me!
All of this is as disturbing as it is true!
And yet, in spite of all the Lord knows about me
– and how well he knows me - and each of you -
still, he’s willing to lay down his life for us
-- for every one of us.
Sometimes I might be tempted to think
that the Lord’s knowledge of me
is information entered in a perfectly accurate database,
storing every one of my thoughts, words and deeds,
past, present – and future!
And it’s true that there’s nothing about me the Lord doesn’t know.
But more important than all that knowledge is this:
the Lord knows my story.
The Lord knows the narrative that links together
all the data in the file he might be keeping on me.
My life is much more than the sum of all my words and deeds.
My life is the story of my relationship with God
and with others, near and far, who are part of my story.
So, in addition to knowing everything I’ve ever done –
the Lord also knows why I did it
and what was its impact, for good or for ill
on me and my relationship with God and with others.
Besides knowing every thought that has ever crossed my mind–
the Lord knows where each thought came from, how it got there,
what I did with it, and how it touched my relationship
with him and with others in my life.
As well as knowing my every desire, every want, every lust,
the Lord also knows well what are my deepest and truest needs
and all the ways, good and bad, that I try to satisfy them.
The Lord, my good shepherd, knows me
and knows my story,
knows the whole of my story
– and he knows you and your story just as well.
And he knows the stories behind our stories.
He knows the simplicities and the complexities,
the joys and the sorrows,
the selfishness and the generosity,
the strengths and weaknesses,
the hopes and disappointments,
the talents and disabilities
and the circumstances and opportunities
that are part of every one of our stories - yours and mine
- and the story of us all together as his people, as the Church.
And he knows and understands how all of these
contribute to the twists and turns, the ups and downs,
the graces and the challenges that weave together
our thoughts, words, deeds, choices and decisions
- into the story that each of our lives is.
But… to say that the Lord knows and understands our stories
does not free us from accountability for our lives and our deeds.
In the greatest story of all, the story of God’s love for all of us,
you and I are living, human characters in God’s story,
created by God and called by God to write the stories of our lives
– as a response to his love for us.
We’re responsible not only for our thoughts, words and deeds:
we’re responsible for the narrative that knits them all together
and responsible for the relationship with God and with others
we spend our lives strengthening – or weakening.
Our psychologized culture might tempt us to think,
maybe even to wish,
that understanding why I did or failed to do something
excuses me from personal responsibility for it.
A faith perspective looks at what I did or failed to do something
precisely to help me to take responsibility for it
and to help me, with God’s grace,
to make changes in the narrative,
to change the story line,
that I might more faithfully and generously respond to God’s love
and to the love of those around me.
God loves my story and God loves your story,
not because our stories are perfect (they are not!)
but because they are our stories - and he loves us.
It’s in and through the stories of our lives that God meets us
and makes his home in our hearts – and saves us.
The good shepherd knows me as his own
- and he knows me inside out.
And he good shepherd knows you as his own
- and he knows you inside out.
And the good shepherd knows our stories
and with his Spirit’s help he is ever by our side
as we write a new chapter in those stories every day.
That the Lord knows me as well as he does
is no reason to be afraid of him but rather a reason to rejoice
since he himself is no stranger to the human story,
he himself lived our narrative of human pain and suffering,
even through death, laying down his life
to take it up again – and rise.
We gather here every weekend to tell the story of God’s love for us,
in Word and in Sacrament,
precisely to refresh in our minds and hearts the pattern
by which we’re called to shape and live our own stories.
As we tell again, today, the story of Jesus’ love for us,
of how, on the night before he died, he gave himself to us at his Table
and then on the next day gave himself for us
on the altar of the Cross,
as we tell that story again,
may the narrative of love we hear and celebrate
shape and change the stories of our lives,
our relationship with God,
until his story becomes ours and our story becomes his.
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