Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
What do you think you would need to be happy
in the week ahead of you?
Perhaps you came to church today to pray
for whatever it is you’d need to be happy this week.
Perhaps that’s something you’ve been praying for - for a long time…
Perhaps what you need to make you happy is a thing:
something physical, something you want to have, to own;
or perhaps it’s a person, a relationship you want to have
or one you want to deepen, or mend – or end;
or perhaps it’s something we want for someone else:
healing of an illness, peace in a troubled family,
a job for someone unemployed;
or perhaps it’s something emotional:
maybe you’re praying for some peace of mind, some serenity,
some contentment to make you happy.
I suspect we all have a wish list, long or short,
of what’s wanting in our lives
of what we believe would make us happy.
And it’s probably fair to say that when most of us come to church,
we come with that prayer in our hearts and minds.
And all of that comes face to face this week
with the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Lord.
As the 23rd psalm puts it:
The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.
“Nothing I shall want…”
But just now, we took time to ponder the things we want
to list the things lacking in our lives,
the things we imagine, that, if we had them, might bring us peace.
But if the Lord is my shepherd – then I should want for nothing
if the Lord is my shepherd - then I have all I truly need.
If you’re like me,
you might find that hard to grasp, not easy to accept.
Even as I say the words “I want for nothing…”
I think of all the things for which I want,
things I want for myself, things I want for others –
good things – not selfish, frivolous things, but important things.
And our experience tells us that the Lord,
as Good a Shepherd as he is,
does not supply us with everything we want.
But he does supply us with everything we truly need.
And that brings us to the really hard question:
What do I truly need to be happy in this life?
Let’s begin to answer that
by looking at what the Shepherd promises us.
It’s in today’s gospel.
• Jesus, the Good Shepherd pledges his voice, his word,
for our hearing.
And we hear the Shepherd’s voice in the scriptures, in prayer,
in our hearts and in our minds, in our conscience.
His voice is always there to be heard, to be followed:
though whether we hear and follow where his voice leads - is up to us.
• And the Good Shepherd promises to know us.
And no one knows me better, no one knows you better,
than Jesus, the Shepherd of us all.
He knows us better than we know ourselves.
He knows us inside out – and still loves us.
He knows everything we do, everything we think of doing
and everything we’ve failed to do – and still forgives us.
He knows the secrets of my heart and all its desires
but still gives us, time after time, opportunities
to improve on our mistakes, to try again, to begin again,
to win again his favor and his love.
• And Jesus, the Good Shepherd, promises us eternal life.
And in light of that promise, anything else we think we need to be happy
pales in comparison.
The problem comes whenever I begin to think
that what I believe I need to be happy this week
is greater, more important or more compelling
than the promise of the gift of life forever.
• And finally, Jesus, the Good Shepherd promises us
that we shall not perish,
that no one and nothing can snatch us from his hand.
Indeed, the promise of life forever tells us that even in death,
we do not perish,
that not even death can snatch us from the Shepherd’s hand:
we are always and ever held in the palm of the Lord’s saving hand.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray
for all the good and gracious things we came to pray for today.
It only means that the happiness, the serenity, the contentment
that any of those things might bring us
is little, indeed,
in light of all that Jesus, the Good Shepherd promises
to us who are in his flock.
The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Jesus, my Good Shepherd,
I trust in you alone
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home…
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