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04/17/16 Fourth Sunday of Easter - Deacon Ron

Homily Summary for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Deacon Landry

In order to fully appreciate the impact of today's gospel, it would serve us well to review the chapter 34 of the prophet Ezekiel: To paraphrase: "To the shepherds, thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally. They were scattered ... over the entire surface of the earth....Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: ...because my sheep became plunder, food for wild beasts, for lack of a shepherd, because my shepherds did not look after my sheep... I am coming against these shepherds. I will take my sheep out of their hand and put a stop to their shepherding my flock, so that these shepherds will no longer pasture them."

As one might imagine, this condemnation would not be lost on either the sheep to whom Jesus preached, or their ineffective shepherds, the Pharisees. Jesus is established as the Good Shepherd, who leads his flock to good pasture rather than tending to his own needs. He understands our needs, fears, weaknesses, challenges; and he is there always to lead us to good pasture.

The flock would have been quite familiar with the shepherd-sheep metaphor, but the fact that Jesus is the shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep would have been unheard of. Should we ever weaken in our resolve that the Good Shepherd will always be there to show us the way and take care of us, we need only look upon the crucified Lord on the Cross. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."  

Some two thousand years later, as a people of faith who believe that the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, we find ourselves immersed in a culture that mocks, rather than encourages, our system of beliefs. We can find ourselves at the point of drowning.

Furthermore, as we struggle to deal with our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental challenges, our faith can often be most elusive when we need it most. We do strive to follow the Good Shepherd, doing as he instructs us to the best of our ability, and yet life seems to be so remarkable unfair and painful at times. We can find ourselves feeling further and further estranged from Our Shepherd.

So what does Our savior, the "Good Shepherd", have to say about the human condition in our time and culture? "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." So we know that even though we might sometimes struggle, we have the comforting words of Jesus Christ to sustain us. Too often, especially in our culture, we seek comfort elsewhere and become lost. If we ever lose our way, we need only go towards his voice.

It is part of our human weakness and limitation that we will not always follow the Good Shepherd. No one understands this better than Our Savior Jesus Christ. We do not mean to sin, but we do. However, the words of today's gospel make emphatically clear that we need not fear ever becoming totally lost. Jesus promises us, "No one can take them out of my hand."

We sinners can be very hard on ourselves. We can begin to doubt that Almighty God loves us as much as those people we look up to as proper Christians. We can begin to perceive ourselves as unworthy. And in the darkest times of our lives, when we need to rely on our faith the most, we can begin to question whether Our Savior knows what we are going through; or cares; or even exists. This is all the work of the evil one. But we needn't fear or despair, because the Good Shepherd his sheep, "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand." Those are awesome, comforting and encouraging words. They were two thousand years ago when Our Lord first declared them, they are every bit as much as we hear them today.

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