Sunday, April 13, 2008
There was a parish in which the parishioners didn’t care much for their pastor. So one day the pastoral council met and discussed what they were going to do. So they decided to approach the pastor and to ask him to step down as pastor. The pastor, however, refused. “I’m the servant of Jesus” he said. “When Jesus tells me to go I’ll leave but until Jesus gives the word, here I stay”. So he did. Week by week his parishioners groaned through the services. Finally one Sunday morning the pastor announced Jesus had given the word - he was moving to another church. So the parishioners rose to their feet and began to sing “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
This Sunday is commonly known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” since the theme of the Gospel is focused on the Good Shepherd. Even though we heard in the humorous story how the pastor didn’t seem to fit in with the particular parish as a good leader, we must realize that we need to listen to the Good Shepherd. Yes, at times we might not be in agreement but we must be attentive. We must pay attention and hear God’s message in which he uses messengers. On Tuesday our Holy Father will be arriving in our country and he will bring a message to our country and to the world as he will speak at the United Nations. Even though it might be a message that is not easy to take in but it’s to realize that we have to be challenged and try not to focus on what we believe is right but to hear what the messenger brings to us.
This morning/evening in the first reading we heard about the three thousand people who became followers of Christ in one day, as the result of one sermon given by St Peter. After the Apostles received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room, they went to the Temple to give thanks, and the presence of the Holy Spirit attracted crowds of awestruck pilgrims. Peter stands up and addresses them. He tells them about Christ. And "they were cut to the heart." These were the same crowds who had rejected Jesus just a few weeks earlier. But now the mere mention of his name "cuts them to the heart." Hearing the truth about Christ made them want to follow Christ. But they didn't know how. And so they asked, "What are we to do?" Peter explains that they need to repent and be baptized. They need to decide to give up their self-centered ways, follow Christ's teachings, and receive the sacraments worthily. We are all so familiar with this scene that we can easily overlook the most important thing. The grace of God didn't reach those three thousand people directly.
It reached them, inspired them, changed them, and renewed their very lives, through the mediation of the Apostles, through the preaching, witnessing, and ministry of Christ's chosen messengers. Christianity is not just about "me and Jesus." Christianity is about the whole family of Jesus. It is about his Church, through which Jesus has chosen to make himself known and loved by sinners who need his grace. God works through messengers.
My dear brothers and sisters on this Good Shepherd Sunday we have to understand that ordained ministers (deacons, priests, and bishops) have the authority to preach in the name of Christ and his Church and if are in line with the church and not preaching their own opinion then God is speaking through them. Does that mean that the non-ordained can not be considered God’s messengers? Absolutely not!!! We all can be messengers. To be those people that brings the love of Christ to those that need it. Last week I had the opportunity to present to one of our parish groups about the missionary experience that I and a group of our young parishioners were able to be a part of last summer. As I prepared the presentation it brought back memories of the experience which was incredible but it also reminded me of this situation of a messenger. You believe that by going to a third world country you could bring the message of hope to these people who are living lives that any of us would consider lives that are hopeless but in reality they brought the message of God to us. They brought a message that God loves us and is constantly blessing us. Just imagine these people that don’t have much and encounter many difficulties find the blessings of God in their lives. How many of us would be able to share that same mentality?
Pope Gregory said that we should “set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of the heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveler who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.”
So my dear brothers and sisters on this Good Shepherd Sunday let us be people that are faithful to our call as Catholic Christians and let us always be faithful to the Good Shepherd who is the way, the truth and the life and know that “the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”