Who Do You Follow?
Who are we following? Whether we realize it or not, we are following someone in some way. As Catholics we are called to be disciples of Jesus. Disciple means to follow, we are called to follow Jesus. Jesus should be the one who leads us, who influences our decisions, who guides us in our life.
But, in reality we are often influenced by many others. Often without realizing it. Advertising comes at us from everywhere. On our social media sites we have advertising directed at us using algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves at times. So, corporations, political figures, various ideological forces are at work trying to guide us and lead our choices.
Many of these forces that we follow encourage us to be greedy, selfish or leads us towards hatred and anger towards a certain group of people. Usually a small and weak and vulnerable group.
Leadership and who we follow matters. In our world we see the results of bad leadership. In Sudan, two opposing military leaders are fighting for authority, leading the country into violence and destroying so much. The leadership of Vladimir Putin has moved a country into a destructive war doing so much damage. How many young people on both sides being killed and injured as they are forced to follow harmful leaders.
Parents are often concerned with who their children follow. They are worried they will end up in a bad group that will lead them astray!
Who we follow matters. There was a story from Kenya last week about a cult leader who supposedly encouraged his followers to fast to death in order to get to heaven.
Who we follow matters. We need to ask ourselves about anyone we are following. Where are they leading us? Does it lead us to harm, for us and others? Does it lead us away from virtue and goodness? Does it lead us to hatred or prejudice towards certain people?
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we follow Jesus we are led in good directions. He says that “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus leads us first of all by example, we see the way by the model of life he provides for us. Jesus leads us by guiding us through the Holy Spirit.
Choose wisely who you are following in your life. Look to Jesus as the one to follow. For Jesus will lead you on a path that brings life, that moves you into truth and goodness, the way that leads to eternal life. When we follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we will find a place of peace.
All of us need to carefully review our life. Who am I following? Who is influencing my decisions, my thinking and my priorities? In the Gospels, in prayer, in the Sacraments allow Jesus to be the one you follow.
Does The Church Change?
4th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: May 8, 2022
Does the Church ever change? Is the Church something that remains unchanging, unlike everything else in this world? The Catholic Church is a divine mystery, instituted by Jesus. But, it is also a human reality and institution. It exists in human history and therefore, it does change and in fact, it needs to change in order to proclaim the Gospel faithfully in new situations and new cultures.
We see one of the greatest transformations and changes of the Church in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles. The first disciples of Jesus were all Jewish and were following Jewish laws. They still considered themselves to be Jewish. Gradually, as they moved out from Jerusalem and to the Greek world and beyond, they came to understand that the Good News of Jesus was not restricted to a small group. It was meant for all humanity, including the Gentile world.
So, the Church began to change. This led to great tensions, to battles between those who thought differently about this change. Some felt that it was not acceptable to make any changes to the Church. One big example was the case of circumcision. Any Jewish man was expected to be circumcised. Well, what about the new Gentile converts, were those men expected to be circumcised?
Paul and Barnabas have a broader vision of the Church. As they listened to the voice of the Good Shepherd, they came to understand that the Gospel was not restricted to just the Jewish world. This meant making changes to things that were not essential, to allow the Gospel to be embraced also by the Gentile world. This change of the Church did not happen without a great struggle. A Council of the Church had to be gathered to decide how to deal with this change. We read about it in the Acts of the Apostles.
In the twentieth Century, in the past 100 years or so, we have seen one of the greatest changes of the Church since that time in the First Century. The Church has gone from a primarily European Church to a world Church. The Church has spread to Asia, Latin and South America, Africa. In fact, the fastest growing areas of the Church are in these parts of the world. Actually, the most vibrant part of the Church is in these parts of the world.
We see this changing reality in our own parish where many of our new parishioners are from various parts of the world, not from Europe.
Vatican Council II in the early 1960’s was partly about embracing this new reality, adjusting the Church to deal with this new world Church. This has led to tensions, struggles and stresses. Again, we have difficulty with changes and are fearful of changes needed by the Church.
Jesus says, “my sheep hear my voice.” The challenge for the Church today, for all of us who are members of the Church, is to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd at this time. In what ways are we called to change, to move in a new direction?
We need to listen carefully, with deep prayer, with humility. We need to listen to different voices and cultures, to men and women, to old and young, to those who are seemingly on the outside of the Church. We are in a time of change, we are not always comfortable with change. But, we need to listen to the voice of the Shepherd so that we follow in the right direction and make changes that will help us to faithfully proclaim the Gospel in the 21st Century.
Do You Have An Investment?
4th Sunday Of Easter
Fr. Paul Patrick, O.M.I.
Posted: April 24, 2021
Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter and simultaneously, the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Today we highlight in a specific way the importance of young people discerning and then realizing their vocation within the Church, be it a call to be married, to the priesthood or religious life, or to single life.
In the Gospel today, Jesus gives the powerful analogy of a shepherd who is ready to give up His life for the sheep under His care. He contrasts this model of “Good Shepherd” who is completely invested with the welfare of the sheep to that of a hired hand, who will run when danger approaches. Jesus states “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away” John 10:11-13
The difference lies in one word – investment. The Good Shepherd is deeply invested in the sheep and therefore he cares. The employee or hired hand, also cares for the sheep, but only in as much as he or she is paid. If there is danger involved, they flee because for an employee with little to nothing invested, it’s not worth risking their life over.
- Practices of many successful businesses
It is no coincidence that many successful businesses have adopted the model of giving their employees a stake in their company and treating them like partners rather than hirelings in order to increase productivity. When an employee feels a connection to their place of work and feels their contributions have value and if they are invested in their company, then they are more likely to contribute in terms of productivity.
- What do young people want from the Church?
In March of 2018, a delegation of 300 young people with representation from the entire Catholic world met with Pope Francis to discuss the present realities facing young people in the Church. In preparation for this meeting, over 15,000 young people participated through social media to send their comments and reactions on their life of faith in the Catholic Church and how they lived out their vocation. This culminated in a 16 page document preparing for the Synod of Bishops in October 2018 under the topic “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.
There were many memorable quotes in this document, but this one in particular stands out: “Young people who are disconnected from or who leave the Church do so after experiencing indifference, judgment and rejection”. Young people seek a sense of belonging. They seek investment in their local parishes and Church structures, seeking to be an integral part of it’s mission and existence. Additionally, the report goes on to state “the Church must involve young people in its decision-making processes and offer them more leadership roles” which “must be on a parish, diocesan, national and international level”.
- Sense of belonging and investment
Dear brothers and sisters, a healthy sense of belonging and investment in any endeavour – either secular or religious – naturally tends to create commitment and dedication to the cause. If we want our young people to involve the Church in their vocations – the most important steps of their life – then we must all strive to promote a sense of belonging, welcome and investment in our parishes. In this way, we will create a climate in which youth feel confident in following in the footsteps of Jesus the Good Shepherd who gives up His life in the service of His people.
The Call of the Good Shepherd
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Carlos Diaz (Seminarian)
Date Posted: May 1, 2020
‘He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out’
When I read this, it made me think of a common event that happened at home.
I remember growing up my mother would call my siblings and me. This meant dinner was ready and she wanted us to come set the table so we could start dinner. Sometimes, she would call us by the wrong name. We came anyway; we knew the drill.
This weekend is the fourth Sunday of Easter and it is commonly referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. This weekend is also commonly referred to as Vocation Sunday.
I want to share with all of you how the Good Shepherd called me to the priesthood.
One summer day in 2012, an aunt and cousin of mine came to visit from Mexico. After a few days, I grew tired of babysitting my younger cousin all the time. My aunt asked if I wanted to go out. That day I surprisingly said yes although I didn’t actually realize where she had invited me. I just remember I was excited. We went to a local chapel for one hour adoration. That is the day that I heard for the first time the voice of the Shepherd inviting me to be a priest. The call was not an actual voice saying “be a priest” but rather a strong desire to be a priest and celebrate mass. There I found a deep and profound peace. I knew I was in the presence of God of He who had given me the gift of life.
In the years that followed, as I was completing my degree in Environmental Studies, I took the practice of visiting the local parish before and after classes. It was during these daily visits that I heard the call to the priesthood more clearly and my desire to follow Christ more closely grew in my heart. During these visits, I came to know and recognize Christ’s tender care and voice. Christ’s voice is a constant call to conversion and improvement to better ourselves and to live a life of love and mercy. I understood the gift of life given to me by God, was to be shared with others in this particular vocation.
Today many people think of vocation as something that is a one-time event. I was called to be a priest so I am a priest; some of you were called to marriage and so you got married. These particular vocations along with the single life and consecrated religious are rather a way to live our lives. The call of the Good Shepherd to us is an ongoing daily occurrence inviting us to embrace him.
Everyone should strive to listen to the voice of the Shepherd more closely and to carry a conversation with Christ. There can be lots of noise around us but if we persist in prayer and give time to God and put away distractions for at least 15 minutes every day we will be able to recognize that subtle voice of the Good Shepherd calling our own name. There are so many things that the Lord wants to tell us. We just need to spend time with him on an ongoing basis. It can be 15 minutes in the morning and/or 15 minutes in the evening. Sometimes listening can be the hardest part because we might want to fill the time with spoken prayers.
Let us approach Jesus, the Good Shepherd; the door through which everyone is called to enter. He always offers abundant life. In contrast with my own mother, God never calls you by the wrong name. Let us be attentive in prayer and pray with intention so we might hear the Shepherd’s personal message to us.
The Good Shepherd…Absurd! – Fr. David
4th Sunday in Easter – Year B
Fr. David Reitzel
Preached: April 22, 2018
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus knew how absurd some of his parables sounded. Take for example the teaching he gave about not judging. He says, “Why do you point out the spec in your neighbor’s eye when you have a log in your own” (Matt 7:3). It’s ridiculous to imagine a person with a whole log in their eye.
Or what about the sower who went out to sow and threw seeds on rocks, on pathways, in thorn bushes, and some made it to the good soil. Anyone who owned a farm would have told Jesus that person would be fired instantly for being so careless with the seeds. And today we hear another parable that would have sounded absurd to his listeners, a shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.
I heard of a priest once who was traveling through the holy land when he came upon a shepherd who was walking his sheep to a grazing area. This priest was a little excitable, and when he saw this he was overjoyed that he was actually witnessing a biblical scene.
So the priest went up to the shepherd full of expectation and asked him,
“You’re a shepherd right?”
“Yes,” the shepherd responded.
“Oh how beautiful,” the priest thought. “So that means that if you were to ever lose a sheep, you would go through the fields trying to find him, right?”
“What? No! We’d just count that as a write off. We lose sheep all the time. We budget that in,” the shepherd responded.
“Oh” the priest thought, a little deflated. The priest then tried again asking, “Well, what if a wolf came? Would you fight it trying to protect your flock from being devoured?”
“Do you think I’m crazy?” the shepherd said. “I’m not putting my life on the line. Beside the wolf is only going to take two maybe three of them. We can afford that.”
What the priest hoped would be an uplifting and edifying encounter with a shepherd in Israel turned out to be disappointment.
The shepherd that the priest met, if we want to be fair, was a reasonable man. I mean, if a sheep gets lost, a 1% loss isn’t really going to hurt the business. And if a wolf comes by, I’m sure the wife and children of that shepherd would be happy to hear that he didn’t endanger his life for the sake of some livestock.
This leads us to conclude that when Jesus said that he was the good shepherd – that he lays down his life for his sheep – he was making a statement that was absurd to those who heard him, and even to shepherds today.
But that’s the point. Jesus does not think in the same way as we do. God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8)
Of course Jesus sounds absurd. He is thinking a lot higher than us. The fact the Jesus is willing to lay down his life for us, shows that he is madly in love with us. He doesn’t care what it costs him. He wants to show his love, and he wants to pay the price so that we can be with him in heaven.
No amount of cost benefit analyses or loss gain comparisons can make sense of what Jesus has done for us. That is because Jesus loves us not with the heart and mind of only a human which always considers such things, but with the heart and mind of a God which knows no limits.
For us this can mean many things, but I only want to focus on one. Next time you are thinking about the love of God, stop, and remind yourself that you will never, never comprehend the depth of God’s love for you. God made you, God gave you everything you have, and as if that wasn’t enough he died for you. To spend a lifetime contemplating the love of God would not be enough, that’s why he invites us to experience it for eternity.
Jesus is the good shepherd, and he lays down his life for his sheep. An absurd statement in the eyes of the world, but an act of unspeakable love in the eyes of those who love him back.