Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter Year A
Theme: Most Important Job
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Sunday May 3 2020
Three friends were talking – a lawyer, a doctor and a priest. They were discussing as to what profession is the most important. The lawyer comes in quick: “Mine is the most important. If I lose the case, my client goes to jail.” The doctor cannot be outdone: “Well, if my diagnosis is wrong and I don’t give the right medicine, my patient goes to the cemetery.” The priest had the last word: “My job is the most critical. If I give an erroneous advice or teaching, my penitent goes to hell!”
Priests may not anymore be considered important in a secularized society like ours. But the Church continues to remind us of the vital role that priests play in society, especially in the formation of spiritual and moral values of the people. And so today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It seeks to remind us of our responsibility to foster vocations to the priestly and religious life. In his message for this year’s celebration, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by “other voices” and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations.”
The barber was cutting the hair of the priest. He said, “Father, barbers and priests will never run out of job.” “Why is that?” the priest asked. “Because,” he said, “the hair keeps on growing, and people keep on sinning.” That is true. But there is one sad difference: while people regularly go to the barber for haircut, people rarely go to the priest for confession.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the seminarians in his letter last October: “You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity” (Letter to Seminarians, 18 October 2010).
I had this unforgettable experience in my last parish in Novaliches. Every evening I go to the communities to visit the people. I say Mass there, and afterwards we have fellowship. One time, a young couple sponsored the Mass, and I dined with them later. It was the first time they had a priest in their home. During dinner, the wife said to me, “Father, I’m so happy. Right now, I feel like I am in the presence of God.” Those words sent shivers down my spine, leading me to a humble realization of my unworthiness. At the same time, it was a major eye-opener for me. Despite my human frailty and sins, there are still people who, in their simple faith, look at the priest as concrete extensions of God’s presence in the world.
Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI is right: people will always have need of God. No matter how they try to ignore God as they blindly pursue material things and their worldly ambitions, they will always realize later on in life that they need Him after all. No matter how strong and successful we are right now, the time comes when we will eventually succumb to the forces of nature and lose our power, wealth and health. Then we realize, we are weak and vulnerable after all. This lesson is crystal clear to everybody especially now that the whole world is suffering from this deadly corona virus pandemic.
The Gospel this Sunday is, indeed, good news for us. Before we totally get lost in the wilderness of this world, we hear the words of Jesus: “I am the Good Shepherd.” And we are the beloved sheep of his flock. This should give us a complete sense of security: “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.” He takes care of us, protects us and gives us nourishment.
The image of the Good Shepherd perfectly captures the mission of Jesus. He offers his life as nourishment for his sheep. He is also ready to protect and defend his sheep from all possible harm at all cost, even to the point of risking his own life. He gives both protection and nourishment for the sheep under his care. This is better illustrated in another image Jesus used in the Gospel this Sunday. He calls himself the gate of the sheepfold. The shepherd serves as the gate. He sleeps at the entrance of the sheepfold. Nobody enters the sheepfold without his knowledge and consent. He keeps the unity of the sheep strong, as no one enters the sheepfold that does not belong to the flock. The wolves keep their distance, knowing that the shepherd is there. The sheep, therefore, are kept united and secure under the protection of the good shepherd.
When Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, many people were telling the joke that the Catholic Church has now a German Shepherd. Of course, he is not a dog. But being the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for many years, he was known as the watchdog of the Church’s doctrinal and dogmatic teachings. He keeps watch and protects the faithful from false and erroneous teachings that can be harmful to the spiritual life of the faithful. That is one major task of a true shepherd.
However, more than the role of protection is that of nourishment, which the shepherd as the gate provides. Jesus said, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:9-10). He does not only lead us to green pastures. Rather, he himself is the food: “My flesh is true food. My blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:54).
Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus promised, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20). He continues to fulfill this promise through the ministry of the human shepherds that he has chosen – the Pope, the bishops and priests. As members of Christ’s flock, we should feel secure since through these human shepherds, Jesus continues his mission of protecting, caring and nourishing his people until he comes again. Let us, therefore, pray in this Mass for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. May the Lord send more workers into His abundant harvest. And we pray that He may give us holy and zealous bishops and priests who will lovingly care for His flock after the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches