YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY THEME: THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP.
BY: Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
READINGS: Acts 4: 8-12, Ps. 118, 1John 3: 1-2, John 10: 11-18
This Sunday is celebrated as Good shepherd Sunday. This is also called Vocation Sunday and so the Holy Father has issued a letter to that effect reminding us that our call is for joy in God. The readings especially the gospel speaks about the role and attitude of a good shepherd.
Who is a shepherd and what makes a shepherd to be good? A shepherd is a human being who devotes time, skill, energy and attention towards the pasturing of the sheep. He takes it to green pastures and keeps them in secure places so that they can feed and grow healthy, strong and big. A shepherd can be hired or an owner of the sheep. It is the treatment and heart of doing the shepherding that makes one be called a good shepherd. A good shepherd is one who goes extra mile in his devotion towards the good of the sheep. The work of a shepherd is an attribute Jesus gave to himself; he defined what constitutes a good shepherd: He lays down his life for the sheep, he knows his sheep, and he brings all the sheep to unity of one fold and does not allow separation and division. All that he says are really true of him. Jesus is the one who took the death due to us his sheep; he suffered and died our death. He worked and preached peace and unity of his flock. In John 17 he prayed that his disciples (sheep) be one just as he is one with the Father.
There is nothing that a shepherd can do for his sheep that Jesus has not and would not do for us. The onus is on us to reciprocate; he said that he knows his sheep, each by its name, capability and worth. He has gifted each with special graces and virtues and blessings. He is cognizant of each at each time and cares for all. He does not allow any to be in need. Psalm 23 clearly sang the joyful song of one who has God as his shepherd. I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters and gives me new strength. He guides me in the right path, I will not fear no matter the valley of darkness because he leads me and protects me with the shepherd’s crook and staff. Even before my enemies he prepares a banquet for me, he welcomes me as important guests and fills my cup of wine to the brim. His goodness and love follows me all the days of my life till I go home in peace. This is the testimony of one who has this God (Lord Jesus) as a shepherd. Since He does all this for the sheep, the sheep testify to his goodness. All these happen because He knows his sheep and cherishes his sheep; he said too that his sheep knows Him.
Beloved, this is our point of reflection, his part he has fulfilled and one of the qualities of his own sheep is that they know him and they listen to his voice. All claims to be part of the fold and a sheep to the Lord but the questions are: Do we know him and do we hear his voice? Those who know him testify by their lives that they do by the type of life they lead. Those who belong to his fold obey him. It was not by chance or by mere saying that Jesus used the animal sheep instead of any other. He could have used lion and lioness if he wanted strong people. He could have used snake if he wanted slippery and cunning people. He could have used Elephant if he wanted huge and intimidating people. He could also have used tortoise if he wanted smart, wise, intelligent and too sensible people. He used sheep for the qualities found in the sheep which are: meekness, humility, obedience, easy to rule and be guided, innocence, trust and faithful, easy going and non-resisting, easy followership and not so inquisitive nature. How do we resemble sheep of with these qualities? How do we obey him; how do we keep his commands and instructions as given to us in the scriptures and the Church’s teaching? How many of us live the type of life that pleases him such that he can vouch for us and be proud of us? What of our spirit of followership and collaboration, our community life and moving along with others amicably? This is where the problem lies. His love for his sheep knows no bound such that He does not treat us just like the sheep but as his children as John told us in the second reading. Daily and in all circumstances, God wakes us up and commands us and leads us to the right path; how many hear his voice in decision making and choice of life? How many recognize his voice in others and through the church and her leaders?
How many easily follow the flock in obedience and collaborative spirit without party spirit and persecution tendency? Everybody knows so much and would like to lead, who would be ready to follow? The plans of God for us as his children are more than what we enjoy today. How are we to feel when at last we become like him and see him face to face? Are we ready to live our lives in agreement with Peter that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name (shepherd) under heaven given among men by which we must be saved? May the Lord grant us his grace to take refuge in him and not in the princes and shepherds of this world, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf