N TODAY’S GOSPEL Jesus speaks about the shepherd recognizing the sheep and the sheep recognizing the shepherd. I don’t think we have reason to doubt about the shepherd or Jesus recognizing us. But the opposite may not always be true, at least not in the sense that we as sheep have always listened to the shepherd, and certainly have always followed his voice. But then we know from another Gospel parable that Jesus is always happy to take the erring sheep back.
Jesus Teaching a Lesson: Now this way of speaking to the Jewish people of his day was probably a lot different than the people were used to hearing. They were probably used to hearing more of a majestic or fear-inspiring God. And that was why He stressed the idea of His being like a shepherd to them. However, this idea of being a shepherd was already found in the Old Testament. We can find it in the 22nd or 23rd. Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” And I am sure there are other references. Jesus was trying to bring a different idea of God to the people than they had been used to. If He were speaking before His sufferings and death, He was trying to prepare them for what He was going to do for them. If He was speaking after His death, He would have been speaking of all that He did for them, and how He did this out of love for them. And this idea becomes so evident in the writings of the apostles.
The Apostle Peter: The Church makes a lot of use of the First Epistle of St. Peter on these Sundays after Easter. In many respects he is the most likely writer that we would expect to hear from during this time of the year. After all he is the first Pope, the one chosen by Jesus to be head of His Church. We might wonder why, but that’s not the issue. The fact is that is what Christ did. Admittedly in my opinion, some of his writing gets somewhat complicated at times. But St. Peter often seems to repeat the idea of Christ dying for us, the Innocent one for the guilty. We were like erring sheep, but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls.
The First Reading: The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of St. Peter standing up with the other Apostles and doing the preaching. There doesn’t seem to be any question about the fact that he is the one who is supposed to be the spokesman for the group. I’m sure other apostles were probably better qualified or better preachers. But already the rest of the Apostles knew the unique position that had been given to Peter. No where do we ever see this questioned or contradicted. And yet John, who was probably present, was known as the beloved Disciple. This of course is a very important fact for us as Catholics in showing and proving the primacy of the Pope and that it was conferred on St. Peter. These Acts of the Apostles are used during this season of the year because they contain the early history of the Church, the period right after Jesus ascended into heaven.
When we began our religious life as novices and were introduced to the practice of meditation, we were taught to reflect on some part of the life of our Lord or a Saint, or perhaps on some virtue. Then we were encouraged to try to make some resolution how to apply it to our lives. When we hear a sermon or homily that is more or less what we are also encouraged to do. It may be a general reflection or something specific. A thought that struck me was the fact that in spite of the billions or trillions of people who have and will exist, yet each and every one of us is equally important. And when we appear or show up to God in prayer God knows each of us by name and pays attention to us, as if we were the only person there. It’s like those few moments at our doctor’s appointment. The doctor finally comes in and is with us alone for a few minutes. But in prayer God is with us as long as we want. Yes in the eyes of God every one of us is an individual sheep and Jesus knows each and every one of us by name. Each and every one of us is most precious in the eyes of God.
We hope you enjoyed this homily by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.