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05/17/17 Fourth Sunday of Easter - Deacon Tony

Deacon Tony Conti

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 49

  • From today’s Gospel: “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… the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice
  • One of the keys to the Spiritual life is recognizing the voice of the Shepherd in our lives… that we might follow Him more closely…
  • Although God knows each of His sheep… Each of His sheep do not always know their Shepherd…
  • We often identify with the labels given to us by the world... I'm a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, an electrician, a carpenter, a mom, a dad... the list is endless…
  • But is that who we really are
  • Our vocations in life are important… But they do not define who we really are at the core of our being… 
  • First and foremost we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd…  beloved sons and daughters of the Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus...
  • Sheep are natural followers… But who or what we follow makes all the difference
  • Following the Good Shepherd requires that we make a conscious choice to do so…
  • We can choose to continue to play the games of the world for the fame and fortune that they promise; or we can choose to follow the Good Shepherd more closely in our lives… This choice is always ours to make
  • But this choice requires that we be honest with ourselves and with our God
  • Honesty, integrity, and character seem to be endangered species in today’s society… and each were hallmarks of Jesus' life to the point of His crucifixion...
  • Are we perhaps afraid of the same fate? 
  • If we cannot remain true to who we really are and what we truly believe and know to be right... How will we ever find the humility and the wisdom to follow the Good Shepherd? 
  • If we refuse to speak and live the truth... Who will?
  • Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free... But it takes great courage and a deep faith to pursue and live the truth... it takes prayer and introspection to follow the Good Shepherd...
  • Faith requires us to embrace the unknown, trusting in the promises of the Good Shepherd Who walks with us…
  • When we demand certainty in the spiritual life... We sacrifice the mystery...
  • God will not conform to our rules or our whims... God can only work in our lives when we allow Him the freedom to be God
  • When we can learn to become comfortable with the mystery of not knowing all the answers…
  • Today’s Psalm tells us: “The Lord is my shepherd – There is nothing I shall want…”
  • Few of us in this church today truly “want” for very much of anything… Yet the world is full of people who want for the very necessities of life
  • The great paradox of this world, and perhaps of our faith as well; is that those who have the leastoften have the deepest faith in the Good Shepherd
  • Perhaps because they’re forced to rely upon Him from day to day for their very survival
  • There’s a valuable lesson for each of us here… The more we learn to rely upon the Good Shepherd in our livesThe deeper our faith becomes
  • The question for each of us is: Can we learn to let go and begin to trust Him more in our lives
  • The Good Shepherd knows His sheep
  • Each of us has a story… and each of us carries crosses in life that no one can see except Jesus…
  • Jesus knows our individual stories, and because He understands us better than we understand ourselves, He loves us, rather than condemning us for our shortcomings
  • Jesus ate and drank with sinners throughout the Gospels… He knew their stories, He understood their brokenness and their pain… and through it all, He could see the good in them that they themselves could not see… Just as He does for each of us
  • Only the Good Shepherd can see what’s in our hearts - This is why it’s so imperative that we not judge… and that we learn to recognize His voice in our lives
  • This is why it’s so important that we leave room for compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, to allow God to be the judge…
  • The Good Shepherd - Who judges justly with the Grace of restoration rather than the punishment of retribution
  • From a book entitled Compassion – A Reflection on the Christian Life, the authors wrote: “God is a compassionate God.  That is the good news brought to us in and through Jesus Christ.  He is God-with-us, Who finds nothing human alien, and Who lives in solidarity with us.  He is a servant God Who washes our feet and heals our wounds, and He is an obedient God Who listens and responds to His Divine Father with unlimited love.”  (Donald P. McNeil, Douglas A. Morrison, Henri J. M. Nouwen: Pg 45)
  • And to this, I would add that He is the Good Shepherd  - The One whom we can trust with our very livesIf only we choose to follow
     

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