The readings for Good Shepherd Sunday – Second Sunday after Easter, were the inspiration for this homily given at the Extraordinary Form Mass by Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, a homilist par excellence who teaches Philosophy at Ave Maria University and preaches almost every day to the students and parishioners of Ave Maria, and who asks for your prayers as he completes his forthcoming book, I Have Someone to Tell You: A Jesuit Heralds the Gospel, which will include a sampling of his homilies and some essays on preaching. We invite comments below.
Do you want to hear a story? My sister has a little dog named Glenda. She is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a pit bull the color of honey. Glenda is the luckiest, happiest dog in the world. She has three beds to sleep in, each one with a pillow. She gets presents for Christmas and her birthday. My sister talks to Glenda as if she were a child, and refers to the dog as “mother’s lamb.” Glenda gets love and attention from the moment she wakes up to the moment she goes to sleep in one of her three beds.
How different Glenda is from the dogs I saw in Asia, which more often than not could be found on the street or on the menu. The dogs I saw on the street in Asia were dirty and obviously starving. There was no one to love them or see to their needs. They faced each day alone, just trying to survive, and no one cared if they live or died.
These two types of dogs, Glenda and the dogs of the Asian streets, remind me of two kinds of sheep. The sheep with a shepherd have a home and food and someone to protect them. They are the happy sheep. If such a sheep is lost or attacked, the shepherd comes to the rescue. What happens to sheep without a shepherd? Sheep without a shepherd get eaten by wolves.
And what about us? How are we like the sheep? People without Jesus as their Lord and Savior are like sheep without a shepherd. They get eaten by the power of sin and death. Imagine life without the power and promises of Jesus. Without Jesus, we have no hope, no future, no lasting love, no protection against evil, no answer to death. Without Jesus, life is just a sad story that leads to the grave and endures in darkness.
We are here, now, at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because we claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He is our shepherd and we are the sheep of His flock. We know that we are lost without Him. We want to stay close to Him. But…but…We wander. We stray from the master. If we don’t listen for His voice daily we will eventually drift far away from Him. If we don’t give our hearts to Him every day, we will start to follow other masters and leave His flock, even while we say with our lips, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”
Each of us, all of us, gets a little bit lost sometimes. Each of us, all of us, wanders away from Jesus, without consciously planning to. Sadly, sometimes we are just stupid and stubborn and yell, “MY will be done!” as we move away from Him. And if we get too far from Jesus, sin will eat us alive in this life and eat us forever in hell.
We are free to leave His flock; we free to wander off; we are free to move away from Him. Jesus will run after us, give His life to protect us from the wolves, carry us home if we let Him. But He never brings us back against our will. Why not? Because He respects our freedom. He wants our love, but our love must be freely given, or it’s not love. For the sake of love, Jesus the Good Shepherd spoke His deepest “Yes” to us from the Cross, and He awaits for us to make our deepest “Yes” to Him.
We belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd. Only He can see us safely home to the Father. He is our only hope. Our best use of freedom is to follow the sound of His voice.
Now here is good news. Jesus loves to find lost sheep. He loves to bring back home stupid sheep like us, who wander or even run away from Him. If we let Him, He will carry us all the way back home.
Let’s promise today that we will listen carefully for the voice of Jesus the good shepherd. Let’s promise that today we will move a little bit closer to Him. Let’s promise that today, we will call Him Lord and Savior with all of our heart.
How shall we do that? We need to do three things. We need to listen, look and love. We need to listen–we need to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd Who speaks to us, above all in Revelation and in the Sacraments. We need to look–we need to look for the hand of the Good Shepherd protecting us by the faithful shepherds Our Blessed Lord has placed in our lives. We need to love–we need to love the Good Shepherd so much that we will stay with Him until He leads us to our only true resting place, which is the home of Our Heavenly Father.
How can we know if we are truly following the Good Shepherd, hearing His voice and doing His will? How can we know if we are part of the Lord’s flock? We will know that we are the true sheep of the Good Shepherd if the wolves are trying to eat us. We will know that we are the true sheep of the Good Shepherd if we see a cross standing between us and the resurrection. We will know that we are true sheep of the Good Shepherd if our greatest joy is to be fed by His hand at this altar.
This morning I ask myself and all of you this question, “Will you follow the Good Shepherd all the way home?”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.