Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 11, 2014
Homily by Deacon Adam Prichard
Gospel John 10:1-10
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
What a wonderful thing the mercy of God is! We can make horrible decisions, straying from what we know is right, straying from what God calls us to; yet, He will continue to call us back to Him and will welcome us back to Him when we return.
When those who listened to Peter realized their role in the crucifixion of Christ, whether they did not speak up in defense of Jesus or were part of the crowd that yelled “Crucify Him!”, when they understood the magnitude of what they had done, they were desperate to find out what they were to do, what they could do. Peter had an answer for them.
When Peter tells them to “repent and be baptized”, he was speaking from experience. Peter himself rejected Jesus, He denied Jesus in public, yet he repented, he fled to Jesus. Jesus forgave him, and told Peter to feed Jesus’ sheep, to take care of them; Peter remained the rock on which Jesus built His Church. Peter is intimately familiar with the mercy of Jesus, having experienced it himself.
We are also intimately familiar with Jesus’ mercy, since we are able to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We also know that it’s not the easiest Sacrament for us to go to, to ask for. Some of our reluctance can come from the fact that we may not like to admit our faults, or the fact that we made wrong decisions and just want to brush those and the consequences under the rug. Once we have received the Reconciliation though, much of the time we ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” We love to encounter the loving mercy of God because of the healing of our relationships. When we reconcile with God, we reconcile with ourselves and with each other.
We know though, that it isn’t the Sacrament of Reconciliation alone that can be difficult in the life of a Christian. We, again, see the example of Christ; He was rejected, insulted, scourged, and crucified, and rose again in order that we may be saved and redeemed so that we may have eternal life with Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. But we do not have the example of Christ alone, we have the example of martyrs throughout the millennia. More recently, we have the martyrs of the Cristero War in Mexico, of St. Maximilian Kolbe, of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and of the continuing persecution in the Middle East, and in China, even in Canada, for standing up and continuing to teach what the Church teaches.
Here, in the US, we may not face physical persecution, but we, at times, face verbal persecution, whether it be in school, at work, or in our social lives. Whether we’re insulted for still going to Church at our age, insulted for praying in public, being called prudes, or any other number of things, sometimes it just seems like it would be easier to keep our faith to ourselves and make it completely private. That way, we wouldn’t be insulted or made fun of, or, in other countries, put in jail, or even tortured and killed. However, we’re not called to fly under the radar; as difficult as it is at times, we’re called to live out our faith, to testify to the truth.
This difficulty of being a Christian, at times, is precisely why we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, our shepherd. We know that Jesus will not lead us astray and when we go astray ourselves, He comes after us. We are His sheep and we know His voice; we know, also, those whom He calls to be His assistants, if you will, because they repeat what He says. They go where He leads them, so that all of His sheep, all of us, may hear Jesus’ voice.
When we are following Jesus, we know not to listen to those that would lead us away from Him. We follow Jesus because we know He cares for each and every one of us. He has the best plan for us, as His plan, His desire for us is eternal life in heaven. While life as a Catholic, as a Christian, is not easy at all times or much of the time, Jesus does not reject us when we return to Him. This is why He gives us the Sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation, out of His great mercy and love, so that we may be strengthened, continue to follow Him and return to Him, if need be, if we abandoned Him.
He is the Good Shepherd and He calls us always to follow Him. May we be willing and able to follow, whether it is easy or difficult.
I would be remiss, if I did not mention the fact that today is Mother’s Day, as well as being the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. As we know, mothers play an integral part in our families, as they have just as important a part in the way their children live out their vocations. I know my own mom has said several times that she had nothing to do with my response to God’s call. Well, as her son, I can say for sure that she actually did. My mom’s support of me, through thick and thin, her prayers, and her encouraging me to follow God’s call, whatever it was, all impacted the way I have responded to God’s call.
All mothers have an effect on their children’s living out of vocations, whether it is encouraging or discouraging. Let us pray that all mothers will encourage the vocations that God is calling their individual children to.
Adam Prichard, of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Quincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, May 10, 2014, by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. He was vested with stole and dalmatic by Monsignor Michael Kuse.