Here is my homily. Blessings on all!
4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B
April 24/25, 2021
Acts 4:8-12; 1John3:1-2; John 10:1-18
Even though each year the fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the Gospel readings describe Jesus as the Good Shepherd, every third year we get these particular first and second readings which describe the power of the Holy Spirit and the creative love of the Father. So today I will reflect with you on God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Saint John tells us in the second reading that God is a Father who loves us so much that He created us as His children and pours forth into our lives the Holy Spirit. Later, in ways we do not yet know, He will transform us into His likeness.
God’s love is so perfect and so faithful that it is the Holy Spirit. He not only created us and gave us the life we now experience, but when we die He transform us into new life. God is not a negligent father who begets a child and then walks away from his responsibilities. He is a faithful Father. He sustains us with His Holy Spirit. He never ceases to love us, not even for a millisecond. If He were ever to withdraw His Spirit, or forget even a single moment of our lives, we would simple vanish and cease to exist. We are that dependent on Him. God the Father continually thinks about us and has for all eternity had an idea about us in His mind. Isn’t that amazing? He has thought of us for all eternity and loved us into life at a particular moment He chose for us. He never leaves us alone. He never leaves us orphans. As a Father, he holds us in his hands and repeatedly, without ceasing wills us into life in one continual act of love. This means that the Father continually pours out into our lives the Holy Spirit Who is love. Over and over again without ceasing He does this. “I love you. I want you. I will you into life. Receive the Holy Spirit.” As Father, He is the beginning and the fulfillment of our lives. He draws us to himself because He wants every person He creates to spend eternity with Him. He wants everyone to accept His love and His invitation to be with Him. He wants all of us to repent and return to Him. He grieves when we turn away from Him; He grieves when we sin and reject Him. We must never forget the fatherhood of God, His faithfulness, and the gift of the Holy Spirit Who is the Father’s love. We must always have a repentant heart and turn to Him again and again, just as He continually gives us life. It would be good for us to spend time meditating on this. In what way must we who are prodigal sons and daughters return to the loving Father by accepting the Holy Spirit into our lives? The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live holy lives and to proclaim the Gospel, to love others into life, to die so others may live, to do battle with our sins and overcome them, and to care for our families.
Then in the Gospel we hear that God the Son is our good shepherd. We are told that a good shepherd knows his sheep and is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. This image of a good shepherd was a very powerful one for the people of Jesus’ time and age, but less so for us as we probably have never known a real shepherd. What are other images that may make sense to us? Saint John Vianney may be a good image for parish priests. He shepherded his parish, and he literally was willing to protect his flock from the “wolves” of the world in the 1800s. He often fought the devil to protect his parishioners who were unable to overcome evil on their own. Saint Maximilian Kolbe may be an example for those in the religious life, for he was someone who died so one in his flock in the concentration camp would live. My daughter is an example for me and maybe others with families. She recently plunged into a river, at risk to herself to save the life of her son who was being swept away. There is an example hitting close to home; my daughter, a good shepherd! Can you think of someone who was a good shepherd in your family? I’ll bet you can.
Jesus was willing to suffer or die so others might live. Jesus was willing to fight battles we are incapable of winning and would surely lose if we fought them on our own. Jesus was willing to plunge into the world, and save us from the rivers that would carry us away to a certain death, like my daughter. He was willing to battle the devil for us, and win, like Saint John Vianney. He was willing to die like Saint Maximilian Kolbe was willing to die to save the life of a man. Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd.
I pray that you accept the Father’s love into your life and turn from any sin that keeps you separated from His love. Forgiveness is always available for those ask for it with repentant hearts. I pray that you become good shepherds in your families, protecting and leading the vulnerable ones entrusted to your care. I pray that you live your life so others may live. I pray finally that you accept the gift of the Holy Spirit and in the ways you are able boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is the savior of all.