YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER – GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
HOMILY THEME: DON’T COVER YOUR DONKEYS!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY FOR THE GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY: Jn 10:27-30
A farmer had a hard-working donkey for many years. But one day the animal fell into a dry but deep well. It cried pitifully for hours, but the farmer did not know what to do. Finally, he decided the well was already dry and needed to be covered up anyway and the animal was well over its productive age. He might just as well bury the donkey. He called his neighbors to help him. They all began to shovel dirt into the well. The donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, he quieted down. Curious about the silence of the animal, the farmer looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up.
As they continued to shovel dirt into the well, the animal would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was surprised when the donkey casually stepped out of the well, and happily walked away! Later, the donkey came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him.
There are two lessons from this story. If we are the donkey: Let’s shake off the dirt thrown at us, and step up to the challenge. But if we are the farmer, remember this: When you try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you. The crisis in the world today is basically a crisis in leadership. It is this crisis that brought us all these problems in society – economic crisis, political unrest, global terrorism, wars, illegal drugs, social decay, sexual abuses and scandals and many others. Many of our leaders – whether in government, in the church, in schools, in civil society, or even in families – have let us down. Just as there are the so-called “good weather” friends, there are also the “good weather” leaders. They are leaders only when the going is good, easy and beneficial to them. They can rightly be called “plastic” leaders – not genuine leaders. When the going gets hot, they change in form and appearance – like plastic that cannot endure the heat. In other words, their main concern is with their own welfare, with “saving their faces” and “covering their donkeys”, rather than with the welfare of the people they are supposed to serve. Their motto is the four P’s – they work for power, for pay, for pleasure and for pride or prestige.
In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, God has harsh words towards such shepherds. “Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? 3 You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings, but the flock you did not pasture. 4 You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. They were scattered 6 and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; over the entire surface of the earth my sheep were scattered. No one looked after them or searched for them” (Ez 34:2-6).
In a similar vein, St. John Eudes gives this powerful insight, warning us against bad shepherds in the Church: “The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict on the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who participate in the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world, and instead of their saintly call to holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful wrath upon them.”
This is very sad, indeed. Fortunately, there is always hope. God promised his people that He Himself was going to be their shepherd, their good shepherd (Ez 34:15-16). This promise was fulfilled in Jesus. This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus declared himself to be the Good Shepherd who has come “that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Being the Good Shepherd, he leads his flock to green pastures. He patiently searches out the lost sheep, and when he finds it, he carries it on his shoulders in jubilation. He is always at the service of his flock, ready to protect them from the wolves. And if necessary, he will lay down his life for his sheep. And we are so fortunate, for as we sang in Psalm 100, “We are his people, the sheep of his flock. Alleluia!”
In the example of the Good Shepherd, it is very clear that legitimate authority, in Church and in society, comes from God, and its main purpose is for service to others. It should be exercised devoid of any selfish motivations and ambitions, but always bearing in mind the true welfare of the people. Indeed, what the world needs now are true shepherds after the likeness of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
This Sunday, let us pray for our shepherds in the Church – the Pope, the bishops and all priests. We pray that the Lord will help them become more faithful and effective in their ministry, and that they use their authority properly to serve and care for God’s people. In a very special way, let us never forget to pray for the many victims of the shameful behavior and crimes of some unfaithful shepherds in the Church. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, heal their wounds and ease their pain as they struggle to rebuild their lives. This Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Let us pray that more young people will answer the call to the priesthood and religious life so that there will be enough true shepherds to care for His flock. Let us also remember to pray for our leaders in government that they may be imbued with sincere humility and true compassion for the people they vowed to serve. But more importantly, let us pray for one another. In our baptism, we shared in the kingship of Christ – a kingship of service. In other words, we are kings or servants.
Let us strive always to be servants and shepherds to one another. Imagine a world where people do not expect to be served but are all eager to serve and care for one another. When that happens, we will then realize that, after all, heaven begins here on earth.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City 1422
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