Homily on the IV Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday

Today, dear brothers and sisters, we are already halfway through the Easter journey. And the Church consecrates this Fourth Sunday of Easter to the figure of the Good Shepherd and, therefore, it is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It is a special day to remember and thank those priests who have been important in our lives, those who have marked our existence with the sacraments.

Today is the day of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who continues to call men within the Church to accompany him in this «pastoral» ministry. All of them, or rather, all of us, following in the footsteps of Christ, try to prolong the work of the Son of God in this world: to sanctify the faithful through the sacraments, to teach and preach the Good News to the people and, finally, to govern the house of God with humility, charity and patience.

Entering fully into the theme of the day’s readings, I would just like to focus on three ideas that can be deduced from them: first, what a good shepherd is not; second, who the good shepherd, Jesus Christ, is, describing him a little; and third, what we do in the context of that flock.

Although it has not been one of the readings for this Sunday, because we are in cycle A of readings, we cannot fail to turn to the book of Ezekiel. In it God reproaches through the prophet the bad shepherds of his time.

In chapter 34, God addresses them, accusing them of being negligent in the care of the sheep (the people of Israel). Instead of protecting and guiding their flock, the leaders have enriched themselves by neglecting and exploiting the weakest. Because of their lack of love, they are unable to care for the sick or stray sheep.

In verse 4, we read: «The shepherds have not cared for the sheep, but have fed themselves». Consequently, the poor and the unprotected are abandoned and exploited by the leaders who should protect them.

Not without reason, God will end up making a wonderful proclamation (Ezekiel 34:9-16): «Therefore, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am against the shepherds: I will take my flock out of their hand, and I will remove them from feeding my flock. The shepherds shall feed themselves no more. I will tear my sheep out of their mouths, and they will no longer be their prey (…). I myself will feed my sheep and give them rest, says the LORD. I will seek the lost sheep, I will bring back the strayed, I will heal the wounded and comfort the sick».

We definitely needed the visit of the True Shepherd.

In a context very similar to that denounced by the prophet Ezekiel, Jesus of Nazareth introduces himself by saying: I am the Good Shepherd, and I lay down my life for the sheep. It is not that someone takes my life, it is I who want to give it for love of the sheep. I know my sheep, and they know me. I call them and they listen to my voice because I call them by name. All those who have gone before me have been thieves and robbers, but behold, I am the Good Shepherd to defend and care for all the weak sheep. The true Shepherd goes before the sheep and defends them, but the false shepherd, the hireling, only does his work for money. And if he sees the wolf coming, which can be any danger, he quickly abandons his position of Shepherd and flees, because he is not interested in the sheep and does not feel love for them. The true Shepherd, the good one, gives his life for the good of the sheep.

But Jesus goes further and identifies himself with the door of the sheepfold: I am the Door, if one enters through me he will be saved. And it is at this point that I take the opportunity to finish the third idea: what are we doing in this flock?

To better understand what Jesus is referring to, we must first know a little about how those peasants managed to raise their livestock. Most of the houses were small, so those humble people had to keep their sheep in a fenced lot where many of them could fit and with only one door. Generally, in charge of the sheep was a guardian or shepherd who took them out to pasture and supervised them all the time until they returned to the sheepfold.

Since Christ himself is both Shepherd and Door, we who are the sheep of the sheepfold, which is the Church, are not only called to listen to his voice and follow him, but he himself becomes the mediation and the condition for being part of this flock. If someone does not enter through Christ, who is the door, he cannot be part of the sheepfold: «whoever enters through me will be saved». Those who pretend to enter into communion with the children of the Church by using «alternative windows» or by jumping over the fence, are nothing but impostors and bandits. Our entrance into the fold can only be through Jesus Christ, in the way of Jesus Christ, with the method of Jesus Christ.

One flock and one Shepherd, which means, one Church with one authority, one People that welcomes in its bosom all those who want to approach, but being faithful to the voice of the Supreme Shepherd.

In our sheepfold there are sheep of all colors and races, languages, cultures, traditions. Sometimes there are rebellious sheep who want to do what they want at any price. There are others who want to impose their will forgetting the will of the Good Shepherd. There are others who do not know why they are in the flock and as soon as another shepherd calls them, they run after the voice of another who is not the Good Shepherd. But, in the end, we are not even appointed to judge the sheep.

Our mission and our objective is to listen clearly to the voice of the shepherd, to distinguish the true voice among the many voices and noises that resound at the same time. But to hear this unique voice clearly we must be familiar with him through prayer. Only then will we be able to hear his voice clearly and follow where he leads us. And only he can lead us on the path that is right for us. But this following of the shepherd must not be passive.

Although Christ has not shared with anyone his function as a door, for no one can enter except through him alone, what he has shared is his pastoral function. He is the Supreme Shepherd, and He has many collaborators in the «pastoral». You also have the ability to collaborate with Christ by becoming a pastor and leader in the Church. You too can help Christ to care for and guide His sheep. You too can point to the Divine Shepherd and show the good pasture to your brothers. You too can consecrate yourself like Christ to a life of service, perseverance and patience.

Take advantage of today and call that priest you have not heard from for a long time, congratulate in a special way those good priests who have marked your personal and family life. Remember that God is very present in the smallest details. We are privileged to have two seminarians in our parish. Pray for them, ask them how they are doing and, of course, pray for them a lot. They are eager to do as Jesus did, to give their own lives for the love of God and his people.

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