YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.’” (John 10:27-28)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: John 10:27-30
In truth, the commercial script writers stole the scenario from my father. I’m referring to that TV commercial (advertising I don’t know what product) where the sleepy householder staggers from bed at the insistent beckoning of the family pet making a ruckus outside the front door. Opening the door for the supposed beloved pet, the sleep-walking householder returns to bed never realizing a raccoon has been welcomed in to create mayhem.
Back before leash laws prohibited such freedom, family pets were pretty much free to roam as they pleased. In our close-knit suburban Albany neighborhood, there were children aplenty and a corresponding bounty of pets. And just as it was common in those earlier days for neighborhood adults to share in the parenting of everyone’s kids, so too was there the notion that caring for pets was a communal activity. Just so, friendly dogs and adventurous cats could often be found making social visits to neighboring homes, assured that treats and hugs would be lavished upon them. And in our neighborhood, Dad was notorious for his hospitality to both pets and people.
It was no surprise then that, mid-sleep one night, Tiger, our family cat, awakened Dad with nerve- grating scratching of the screen door outside on the porch, loud, mournful meowing in accompaniment. The feline’s habitual nocturnal adventures by then a given, Dad staggered in the dark to the door, opened it, and, bleary-eyed, spied a whoosh of fur dashing by. Stumbling back to bed, the nearly nightly ritual was complete. Except for the crash that followed just as Dad sunk into somnolence.
Rising from bed once again, he headed for the kitchen. Once there, the flip of a light switch revealed a broken coffee mug on the floor and a calico cat sitting regally on the counter. Our cat wasn’t a calico—ours was a gray/black tiger! This was Rudy, beloved pet from the household across the street! An occasional daytime visitor to our house, he just knew he’d be welcome even at this inopportune hour and that a snack was sure to be offered. He was not disappointed. After partaking of Dad’s hospitality, Rudy was shown to the front door, and as it was opened, exited smugly as Tiger, our own cat, dashed inside, confused and insulted, I imagine.
For years following, Dad reveled in sharing the story with any who would listen, not so much for its laugh value but more as a confession of his largesse. While Mom and all of us kids insisted that Dad had let the wrong cat into the house that night, Dad’s behavior then and in the years following suggested there was no such thing as a “wrong” cat, dog—or even person. Indeed, for Dad, no one remained a stranger for long. The gospel passage we hear today is an affirmation of the Divine Largesse. Indeed, through the person of Jesus, his son, God welcomes in everyone—everyone!—nourishment unto eternity waiting even for those who scratch at the door in the darkest hours of night. Even for them—especially for them—God waits in welcome.
Thus it is that St. John writes, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.’” (John 10:27-28) True as it was for Dad that there was no such thing as a stranger, truer is it for Jesus: no one is a stranger. There’s just no such thing as a “wrong” sheep.