4th Sunday Of Easter
One of my favourite images of Jesus is that of the “Good Shepherd.” Images of Jesus lovingly cradling a lamb and surrounded by grazing sheep who look to him. They all stand in a pasture and it looks quiet and calm. The Shepherd provides care and mercy, protection from the wild, and it seems so easy in this environment to hear his voice.
As you know, this past week, our parish received news about a ‘possible’ exposure to the covid 19 virus. The NB Department of Health told me, to isolate immediately. As I made my way home, I was plagued with so many emotions. While driving I tried calling the bishop on the phone…no answer. I then was directed to Monsignor Henneberry, the Vicar General. In my shock, and fear, negative energies trying to convince me to throw in the towel, to quit and to give up. But Msgr. Brian talked me through it. I will always be grateful to Brian for his pastoral care to me. After I hung up from Msgr. Brian, I was driving down Catherwood Street, I heard in my heart this question: “Are you a ‘hired hand’ or are you a ‘good shepherd?’” WOW! In the confusion I took my mind off the Good Shepherd and so I failed to hear him speak to me.
I am sure that many struggle to hear the Shepherd’s voice in today’s environment. With all the political shouting and frenzied pace, the pandemic chaos and distractions from all sides, it is difficult to tell the difference between the voice of our ‘Shepherd’ and the voices of the ‘wolves.’ Today’s world feels far away from that idyllic pasture and easy choice to follow God’s familiar voice.
But if we look at the other readings for today, there are clues to how we might hear God’s voice and recognize our path, how we might see in one another a reflection of the Good Shepherd worth following. In the first reading from Acts, Peter is standing up the leaders of his day and he is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” The fact that the disciples have stepped out of the safety of the ‘upper room’ and into the chaos of the world means that they have found the courage to listen to the inner voice of God and reflect it into the world. Both Peter and John healed a man performing “a good deed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
Later in the day, I thought about that question spoken to me not by words but rather a feeling. The Good Shepherd had spoken. The ‘wolf’ (negative feelings from the potential covid infection) had come and I had a choice: to stay or take off! And I thought about my priestly call, the people whom I serve and I thought about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In my prayer, I though about last Sunday’s homily (the close followers of Jesus did not get it!). Like Peter and John in the First Reading standing before the assembly to answer to their good deed, I, too, confronted myself: Was I any different than Mary Magdalene, Thomas, or those on the Road to Emmaus? Thankfully, I knew that it was from the impact of this news that threw me into whirlwind of questions and doubts. As well, I thought of those in our Pandemic Committee, working so hard each week, ‘shepherding’ those who come to our worship site as well as those of you who gather each week, ‘shepherding’ hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and following his example.
And then it began… the Good Shepherd made himself known in the phone calls, text messages emails, words of encouragement, support and prayers. At one time, I had two phones going at the same time! Beautiful messages of wanting to do ‘good deeds’ for me or others that may be in need while we were isolating. As well, people began to bring food, books and a bottle of wine left at my door. People who put their call to ‘shepherd’ others into action… people, like me who despite the upset heard the voice of the Good Shepherd speak to their hearts.
In the Gospel, Jesus uses seven statements that begin with “I am” which helps us understand his ministry. They are familiar phrases to us: “I am the bread of life’ or “I am the light of the world.” In his statement “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus is the shepherd who cares for and protects his flock. For all of us who flock to Jesus our Shepherd for love and care, we are also challenged to follow with Jesus who claims, “I am the way.” We are challenged, especially during these pandemic times, to hear the voice of our Shepherd, following in his footsteps and offering love and care to others. Thankfully, you can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd speak to your hearts… and that’s what the Resurrection is all about ! Blessings and stay safe!