A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John;
“Jesus said: ‘I am the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and the power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.’”
– John 10:11-18
Hello everyone. I hope you all have had a blessed Good Shepherd Sunday. Yesterday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we contemplated the face of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is a Christian icon enduring nearly two-thousand years; it even pre-dates the image of the Cross.
So why is the image of “shepherd” so important to us today? Well, “shepherd” is not just an occupation or “job,” no, it is much deeper. The “shepherd” is more of a relationship than a career and we, in the contemporary, modernized and civilized world have all but lost this deeper sense of the “shepherd.” However, our brothers and sisters in antiquity and in under-developed countries are much better poised to relate to us that deeper meaning, the relationship meaning of the “shepherd.”
The true shepherd knows his flock so thoroughly that he can call each individual sheep by name. In turn the sheep know their shepherd’s inimitable voice and follow him as he leads them out to pasture in the morning and as he gathers them in the fold at the evening. The true shepherd, unlike the hired man who’s only in it for the cash, steps in between his flock and the wolf, or the bear, or the lion, or the robber, when he comes looking for lamb chops and wool. The true shepherd is willing to even go so far as to give his life, should the life of his flock require him to do so.
We the faithful are Christ’s flock and He is our Good Shepherd. Time and time again, we have all wandered away from the safety of the fold, and each time our Good Shepherd has graciously called us back, by name. As the Good Shepherd, our Lord willed to offer His life for us, His wandering sheep. He actually did give His life on the cross, to save us from sin and offer us the opportunity for Eternal Salvation. Our Lord has now given the responsibility of leading His flock to His Vicar on earth, the Pope, and His Bishops, Priests and Deacons. The Good Shepherd’s own life, death and resurrection has set the bar very high for these visible shepherds of the church, who must be able to call back to the flock, by name, it’s wandering members and, if necessary, give their lives for the flock.
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of attending Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill. As a member of the Youth Choir, a violinist and violist to be precise, I – along with a few of my sisters – was at least guaranteed a seat for the Mass. As an active participant, I will never forget the impression this day has left in my heart. As the countdown ticked from months to weeks to days to hours to minutes, the anticipation escalated with each moment. But it was not merely the pre-event excitement which was most memorable. No, the moment that will stick with me forever was when the Cardinal, during his homily, lifted his red Biretta and stated how its red color symbolized martyrdom, and that he was willing to shed his blood. Yes, Cardinal Dolan stated that he was willing to give his life for us, the sheep in the fold – just like his Shepherd and ours, the Good Shepherd. Indeed, watching Cardinal Dolan embrace the thousands of well-wishers who were present, I had the sense that in a very real way he has already given his life for his flock. He lives for us; his privacy, anonymity, and time are no longer just his. As a Prince of the Church, a good shepherd, he lives for his flock.
So let us pray for our beloved Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, as he takes on the threats to our Religious Liberty made by the HHS mandate and the Obama Administration. Please pray that he be given the courage, wisdom, counsel, fortitude and prudence to tackle these issues. Please pray that our current pastors may each day, model themselves more and more after the Good Shepherd. Please beseech the Good Shepherd to call forth more good men to serve as Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Lastly, please pray for me as I discern my vocation – may I, if God wills it, someday be a holy Carmelite Priest and a humble saint.
Some Pictures from Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill.