Most homilies require a sort of image or illustration to bring home the point. Today, the Lord Jesus provides that image with the simple description of a shepherd and his sheep. King David (Ps. 23) was a shepherd. He saw how similar is the behavior of sheep to the spiritual lives of God's people, first and foremost in his own fickle heart. We wander away, out of safety, and expose ourselves to life-threatening dangers. Yet David realizes that God is like a good shepherd. 1. God provides for us. 2. God searches for us. 3. God leads us. (2nd reading: Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.) 4. God redirects us, corrects us, when we are heading for danger. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Jesus calls Himself the gate as well, so He is the one through whom we must pass to reach the eternal pastures of heaven that the Father wants to bring us towards. The sheep, Christ says, hear the voice of the shepherd and know Him, and Him alone do they follow. This is true, but somehow we also get distracted in this life and follow other voices, or perhaps we just drown out the voice of God with all the noise of this world.
Where do we hear God today? Where is the shepherd calling to us?
1. All people have God's voice speak to them in their conscience.
CCC 1776 and Vatican II (GS 16) "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."
2. Certainly God speaks to us at times when we pray, but often it is not as clear as we would want it! If we always got straight and immediate answers in our prayer, the lottery and practically all of Las Vegas would go bankrupt! “God what are the winning numbers? Oh, thank you, thank you!” No, God doesn't speak to us in that way when we pray. However, there are other ways God clearly talks to us.
3. Christians have the voice of God in Sacred Scripture: CCC 104 and Vatican II (DV 21;24): In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God". "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.
4. But even more, as Catholics, we have the living voice of God reach us through the Church hierarchy. CCC 890: The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.
On account of their office, Bishops are shepherds, the successors of the apostles who were spiritual shepherds. We profess them to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Now, this doesn't make them perfect like the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are capable of all kinds of mistakes when it comes to economics, astrophysics, and Mathematics; but the voice of God reaches us when they speak definitely and universally about matters of faith and morals. This is how the One Shepherd, God, keeps his sheep from the brambles, cliffs, and wolves of this world of sin and evil. It's like a mother's voice (or father's voice, but hey, it's Mother's Day!) telling us when we are putting ourselves or others in danger. Parents call their children back to safety; that's shepherding!
We Catholics should be very thankful to have good shepherds, both now and in our recent past. Saints John XXIII and JPII, now Pope Francis. Bishop D'Arcy, now Bishop Rhoades.
We must pray for our shepherds, that they live their vocation well, that they model for us the path to holiness, that they lead us through the one and only gate of Christ Jesus so we can find our eternal pastures of peace.
In this Eucharist, let us ask the Good Sheopherd to help us hear his voice in our conscience, in our prayer, in Sacred Scripture, and in the teaching office of our One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
First communicants, the Good Shepherd is calling you today to the reception of Holy Communion. This great gift is the banquet we heard about in Psalm 23, and indeed we have nothing more we can want, because in this gift God gives us everything. I call you to follow me now to the Baptism font as you renew your faith in that Shepherd of your souls who leads you to heaven in this banquet of the Eucharist.