Homily for April 22

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Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

“I will lay down my life for my sheep.”

Who, at this very moment, on Sunday, April 22,
who, right now, would be willing to lay down his or her life 
- for you?
It could be that you are actually sitting right next to that very person -
especially if you’re sitting with your mother or father,
or your wife or your husband
or a faithful friend or a close relative.

And even if you came here alone today,
it’s possible the person sitting next to you, even a total stranger,
might in the right circumstances, jump in harm’s way,
sparing no personal cost,
to save you from attack by a criminal
or from being hit by a speeding car
or from some other danger you might encounter
- even on the streets of a small town like ours.

And of course, right now on Sunday, April 22, here in Concord,
there are men and women on duty ‘round the clock
with the Concord Police Department,
the Concord Fire Department,
and on ambulance and rescue crews:
waiting, keeping vigil for your safety and mine
pledged to do all they can, including laying down their lives
for you and for me.
And that’s just in Concord.

All around our nation and around the world,
on land, at sea and in the air,
the men and women of our armed services keep the same vigil,
prepared to protect and defend us from any enemy
and, if need be, to lay down their lives for us.

Don’t our thoughts turn here to Sergeant Sean Gannon on the Cape
who last week gave his life, keeping vigil
over the safety of the people of Yarmouth and Barnstable.
Keeping vigil...  keeping watch...
That’s why we refer to the death of an officer killed in the line of duty
as the “end of watch.”  The end of watch…
Someone is watching over you and me, near and far,
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd,
said he would lay down his life for his sheep, for us.
He said he would - and he did!
On the Cross, our good shepherd laid down his life for us,
for you and for me, the people of his flock.
Some thought then - and some think now -
that the Cross was for Jesus the “end of watch.”
But we who know the good Shepherd,
the One who knows us so well,
we believe something more.

We believe that there is no end to Jesus’ keeping watch over us,
that not even his suffering and his death
sounded the end to his vigil of mercy and love.

The amazing thing here, what makes this truly “good news,”
is that you and I have done nothing,
to deserve such love.
In fact, you and I have done (or failed to do) MANY things
that ought to exclude us from the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness.
But he doesn’t turn us away.
He does not exclude us on account of our sins.

Rather, as a good shepherd would, Jesus goes out of his way
to find, to rescue, to save, to hold safe in his arms
PRECISELY those of us who are least deserving of his love.
He goes out of his for the sheep who is lost
- the one who goes astray.

He does, however, ask for something in return.
He asks that in return, you and I shepherd one another,
reach out to one another, include one another, forgive one another
and love one another - to reach out especially to those
whom we might deem LEAST deserving
of our help, our pardon, our love.

Jesus offers the Cross as the measure of the love he expects from us.
He has commanded us to love one another
and he has reminded us that there is no greater love
than to lay down one’s life for one’s neighbor.

Fortunately, few of us will ever called to offer the ultimate sacrifice.
But we are all called, every day, to love one another
by putting the needs of others ahead of our own.
In other words, Jesus calls each of us and all of us
to be shepherds for one another.

So, let me offer a challenge, a shepherd’s challenge,
for all of us in the week ahead.
It may seem at first a simple challenge
- UNTIL it comes face to face
with our own needs, our own schedules and calendars,
our own comfort and desires.

And the challenge is this:
spend some time today pondering how, in the week ahead,
you and I might lay down one extra hour 
serving the needs of others.
How might you and I spend one extra hour this week
being a good shepherd for someone else?
How, this week, might you and I lay down - not our lives -
but how might we lay down ONE HOUR of our lives
for someone else in the Lord’s flock?

As the Good Shepherd laid down his life for us on the Cross,
so he lays it down today, on the altar,
offering us again here
what he offered us on the altar of the Cross:
the gift of life,
his Body broken for us,
his Blood poured out for us.

Nourished by the sacrament of the Eucharist,
let’s see how he will call us this week
to break ourselves open, to pour ourselves out,
laying down one extra hour in service of one another.


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