HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: “I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; I KNOW MY OWN AND MY OWN KNOW ME.” (John 10:14)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Hunched over, a shuffle for a walk, eyes clouded and ears muffled with age, this elderly man was shepherding me (not in vain I hope) toward heaven. A resident of earth for almost ninety years, Br. William Parker, with whom I lived, waited patiently for the call to freedom from the shell that struggled to hold a vibrant soul. And, waiting, he just laughed.
Always the helpful one, he called down the corridor to me, “Father, you dropped something.” I turned toward the voice, “Oh thanks, Willy.” But looking down the length of corridor I’d passed, I saw nothing. “No, Willy, I didn’t drop anything, but thanks for looking out for me.” Not deterred by my apparent blindness, he insisted, “Let me pick it up for you.” As he bent toward the floor, a slow bend with arthritic knees, I then saw it too— a sunbeam from the skylight above falling in a clearly defined rectangle on the dark carpet below. Before I could tell him what it really was, he had bent to it, intent on picking it up and giving it to me, something I’d lost. As Willy’s hand touched the carpet, a loud laugh came forth, testimony to both his bad eyes and his marvelous attitude toward his failing health. “I guess I can’t give you the sun, can I?” My laughter joined his.
Tending to hurry around, to all appearances with a great sense of purpose, most of my haste is of no more consequence than that of the scurrying hamster working the wheel in the pet store window. Willy’s shuffle gently admonishes me to slow down. But, in defense, I tell myself that my hurrying around is for the sake of the things of heaven. I have a holy mission, and my mind is often miles ahead of me in responding to its needs. Again, I could hear Willy’s rejoinder, “Are you so preoccupied that you’d miss the sunbeam at your feet?” What could I say? He saw the sunbeam before I did, and could he have picked it up, he would have given it to me. This elderly man wanted to give me the sun.
Jesus, the ever-gentle shepherd, promises to lead us to everlasting pastures. This promise finds life in the shepherding ministry that has been entrusted to many: parents, heads of households, church leaders, administrators, teachers, counselors, elected government officials, anyone who has some responsibility for and authority over others. Then there are those shepherds who are not so obvious, those whose path might seem unsure and unsteady, who appear no better fit to lead than one who is blind and deaf. Well, I'm learning to pay closer attention to those who would most seem to shun notice. I want to see better what the blind already see and to hear better what the deaf already hear, because it’s been my experience that these elderly shepherds know best the route to the green pastures. And I hope that, like Br. William Parker, I can one day give something of the sun to those who walk in the dark valley.