Good Shepherd Sunday (and instructing the ignorant): A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

JesusShepherdToday is Good Shepherd Sunday. We celebrate today the Good Shepherd we have in Jesus Christ, who announces in our Gospel today that he is the true shepherd and we are the sheep.

The sheep. Sheep are not the most flattering of animals. They smell. And they aren’t the smartest. In fact, I watched not too long ago a video about how sheep really don’t have any sense of where they are at a given time. In fact, when a sheep comes to a cliff, he isn’t aware that there is a cliff there. He will keep walking….to his own demise.

That is the animal to which God likens us today. He does it for a reason. We are like sheep in the sense that we need a shepherd, and if we leave the shepherd, we too walk around aimlessly. We depend upon our shepherd to get direction and safety from the cliffs.

See, the thing about sheep isn’t that they’re stupid; they just don’t know any better, and so they need a shepherd to instruct them, to guide them, to protect them.

Today we celebrate our Good Shepherd, who always leads us away from the cliffs. He even leads us straight to heaven, as our second reading points out. It tells us that the Lamb is the Shepherd who takes us to a place where all tears will be wiped away, the land of perfection and paradise.

Now Jesus is the ultimate shepherd, but in his love he has given to us a whole bunch of other shepherds. We have parents, siblings, friends, teachers, catechists, etc–all of whom show us the way and have saved us from countless cliffs. They have lived out the second spiritual work of mercy beautifully.  That is, they have instructed us when we needed it. We see Paul and Barnabas instructing the ignorant in our first reading and Jesus doing so in the Gospel.

Now today is World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In every Catholic parish around the world, from Indianapolis to India, we are praying with all our hearts for a special type of shepherd. We are praying for more priests. We pray for more of them to guide God’s flock, to shepherd people to heaven.  Folks–we need more priests and religious. There are many vocations here in this parish. We pray for more young men and women to step up and serve the Church as priests and religious.  It has been said that it should be every Catholic parent’s dream to have a priest or nun as a son or daughter, because it is a wonderful thing to raise up a child in such a way that he loves God enough to do give his life away to the Lord and His people.  I cannot imagine what our holy church would look like if every night, all of us got on our knees and prayed for more priests and nuns. I think there’d be a downpour.

So today we pray for just that, for more priests and religious–especially from this parish and from our families. And we pray for the grace to follow the Good Shepherd who is Jesus and for the grace to lead others to follow him also.