The most beautiful and meaningful comment on the life and the legacy of our late Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II, was made by the famous televangelist, Billy Graham. In a TV interview he said: “He lived like his Master, the Good Shepherd and he died like his Master, the Good Shepherd.” In today’s gospel, Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd and explains what he does for his sheep.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday. On this day we pray for vocations: priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life, and the Church reminds us of our call to become good shepherds and good sheep of His Church and the world. Both the Old and New Testaments use the image of a shepherd and his flock to describe the unique relationship of Israel to God and of the Christians to Christ.
The Good Shepherd cares for each one of His Sheep. He lays down His life for His sheep. Jesus did not just die for mankind in general. He died for each one of us. He knows us individually. Jesus leads his flock away from dangers and into the safe pastures. He is so committed; he offered his life for his sheep.
We see in the Old Testament, the theme of the good shepherd. We read Psalm 25:1, “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” Isaiah 40:11, “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” In the Book of Numbers 27:15-17, we read Moses’s request to the LORD, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
In the Gospel, Jesus affirms that he is the good shepherd who lays down his life. When Jesus said this, people could picture this seen in their mind because they were very familiar with the shepherd and sheep. Jesus is our shepherd, who lays down his life for us. At the same time he talks about the hired shepherd and the wicked shepherd. In the Old Testament Ezekiel 34, we see Ezekiel’s prophesy of the wicked shepherd. Ezekiel is talking about the chosen people. He is comparing them to a fold of sheep and led them by shepherds. Jesus is the true shepherd who lays down his life and gives us new life and He is with us. At the Last Supper, Jesus broke the bread and said to his disciples, this is My Body, take and eat it. Today, Jesus tells us the same, “This is My Body.” Like Apostles, we are also fed at this table and sent out to break ourselves and give to others.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, Bishop James Powers, our shepherd, joins us for Confirmation. Let us welcome him and let us congratulate our Confirmation Candidates. Our young men and women were preparing for this day, for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was life-changing for them. They received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What are they? There are seven of them: 1. The wisdom which helps us to understand things from God’s point of view; 2. Understanding which helps us to understand the deeper meaning of supernatural truth; 3. Knowledge helps us to appreciate the life God has given: we begin to see God’s presence in people, things, and nature and treat them with proper dignity; 4. Right Judgement or Counsel which helps to make the right decision God would want me to make; 5. Reverence or Piety which helps us to trust God more and the relationship becomes stronger; 6. Courage or Fortitude helps to stand up for what I believe; 7. Fear of the Lord or Awe and Wonder which helps to stay on the right path to heaven. Fear of the Lord is because I love God and I want to please Him.
Let us join in pray for our young people those who are receiving Sacrament of Confirmation, may God pour the gift of the Holy Spirit, and so they may come out of the Upper Room and reach out in mission to others. Let us pray that with our Confirmands, their sponsors, families, and our entire cluster will be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.