Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter Year A
Theme: ABUNDANT LIFE : THE GOOD SHEPHERD VS GOOD SHEEP METAPHOR!
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Sunday May 3 2020
* Act 2 : 14 – 41, 1 Pet 2 : 20 – 25, Jn 10 : 1 – 10.
Today is supposed to be fathering Sunday. Inspite of the lockdown in some dioceses all over the world, today’s celebration reminds us of the enormous challenge placed on the Church of Christ as both Shepherd and Sheep that constitute the body of Christ. We wish to underscore the importance of nourishment and provision on the part of the Church leadership and the importance of obedience and true conversion on the part of the Church followers. The metaphor of both the good Shepherd and good Shepherd becomes glaring as we reflect on the readings of today.
B. KERYGMATIC PREACHING
Fr Ozelle in his in depth studies on homiletics, has identified four major types of preaching in the early Church ; (i) Kerygma – herald’s announcement, (ii) Didache – Catechetical teaching, (iii) Paraklesis – exhortation, (iv) Homilia – reflection on any subject /theme in the light of the Christian message. We have before us in today’s 1st reading, such a perfect example of kerygmatic preaching as done by Peter on the day of Pentecost. Let me attempt here a contextual analysis of this message ;
(a) Message ; Peter told them authoritatively, using a lot of historical and literature review that God has made Jesus Christ whom they crucified both Lord and Saviour of the universe. He told them that they must save themselves from this crooked generation full of lust and harlotry, anger and wickedness, pride and quarrels, drunkenness and vanities, bribery and corruption, etc.
(b) Response ; We are told that hearing this message awakened a sense of guilt and repentance within them : ‘They were cut to the heart and asked : what shall we do?’. Yes, that is the target of every preaching. ‘The heart, not the head’, says Plummer, ‘is the home of the gospel’. Most times, these days we hear homilies and are merely entertained by nice jokes or stories and go away untouched.
(c) Solution ; Peter took advantage and ministered the sacraments of initiation ; Baptism, Confirmation and perhaps, Eucharistic – all in one day about 3000 believers were harvested. These days, our sacraments of initiation are haphazardly done in such a way that many are not brought to repentance before receiving Holy Communion.
C. THE GOOD SHEPHERD THEOLOGY
Peter’s homily as the 1st leader of the Church of Christ (the 1st Pope) provided adequate Shepherd leadership for the tender Church at this moment. He told them, as summarized in today’s 2nd reading : ‘By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like Sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls’. And that brings us to the theology of the Good Shepherd which the Church harzards on a day like this.
The images of the Good Shepherd are clearly illustrated in today’s gospel ;
(a) The image of the door : He is the door of the sheep fold. All who came before and after him are theives and robbers – all religions before and after Christ are incapable of leading us onto salvation.
(b) The image of the Good Shepherd : The good Shepherd knows his flock and they know him. He lays down his life to save them. All these qualities are met by Christ’s salvific work on Calvary.
(c) The image of abundant life : The whole gospel of John was devoted to the painting of this image of Christ as the Messiah that has come to give us life in abundance. Let us take a panoramic view ;
(i) The Light of the world, Jn 1 : 5.
(ii) The Word that was made flesh, Jn 1 : 14.
(iii) The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, Jn 1 : 29.
(iv) The Living water, Jn 4 : 10.
(v) The Bread of life, Jn 6 :35.
(vi) The Door of heaven, Jn 10 : 9.
(vii) The Good Shepherd, Jn 10 :11.
(viii) The Resurrection and life, Jn 11 : 35.
(ix) The Way, truth and life, Jn 15 : 13.
(x) The greatest lover of mankind, Jn 15 : 13.
D. CALL FOR CHANGE
The end point of every preaching in the Church should be repentance and change of life. According to John Cardinal Newman, ‘Change is the logic of life. The live is to change. To be holy is to have changed often’. The 3 ‘C’ s of repentance are ;
(i) Contrition ; Like we find in today’s 1st reading : ‘They were cut to the heart’ – the Word of God awakened a sense of guilt and metanoia within them.
(ii) Confession ; They acknowledged their sins, Is 1: 18, and like the case of the prodigal son, confessed to his father, Lk 15 : 21.
(iii) Conversion ; They moved over to Christianity and took the sacraments of initiation that day. Their lives were changed just like David’s life changed completely at the evening of his life, 1 kg 1.
Let us affirm with David today as we find in today’s responsorial psalm that the Lord is our Shepherd. There is the need for this level of intimacy with the Good Shepherd if we understand the following 10 promises contained in Ps 23 ;
(i) Guidance – The Lord is my Shepherd,
(ii) Provision – Fresh and green are the pastures he provides,
(iii) Security – near restful waters he leads me,
(iv) Holiness – His grace guides me along the right paths,
(v) Protection – Even if I walk in the valley of darkness…
(vi) Correction – He corrects me with his crook and staff,
(vii) Eucharist – He has prepared me a banquet in the presence of my foes, (viii) Baptism and Confirmation ( also Holy Orders for Priests) – He has anointed my head with the oil of Chrism,
(ix) Prosperity – Goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life,
(x) Kingdom of heaven – In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell.
E. FATHERING SUNDAY
We bemoan the lack of effective leadership in most of our Christian homes. In this period of global pandemic, it is even becoming more challenging for our Christian fathers to affirm their roles as the spiritual leaders of their various families. And on this fathers’ day, we beg all our fathers to rise up to their responsibilities like Joseph the husband of Mary;
(a) We call on all those not yet wedded to arrange for the sacrament of Matrimony that gives them the 1st spiritual authority to operate as Christian fathers.
(b) To maintain effective leadership in their families by examples in devotion to Masses, Sunday evening Bible studies, etc.
(c) Restore discipline and sanity in their homes especially the area of immorality and not allow their daughters to follow a man and get pregnant before wedding.
(d) Try to respect and be faithful to their wives and maintain peace in Christian homes.
As we celebrate Jesus as our good Shepherd, may our fathers try to be good Shepherds of their own homes. Happy Sunday dear friends! We wish you a happy end of the pandemic in no distant time!