Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 12 2019
We believe that, through our Baptisms, we are called to share in The Lord’s mission and ministry of priest, prophet, and king.
We accept these responsibilities according to our gifts and talents and as befitting our station in life. Obviously, Pope Francis lives discipleship in a far different way than a Catholic high school student. Nevertheless, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who, at our Baptism, comes to dwell within each of us in a special way, we are entrusted with the responsibility of helping to sanctify the world which has been tarnished by sin (PRIEST). Each of us, in our own way, is expected to proclaim The Word of the Lord (PROPHET). And, finally, we become part of “THE” Royal family. Baptism entitles us to live as the adopted children of God, destined to reside in the Eternal Kingdom. We are gifted with Royal powers that give us the strength to resist anything that would rob us of our free will. We enjoy a royal lifestyle, subject only to Christ our King (KING).
This is all very lofty. But today’s brief Gospel adds to our Catholic identity as well as to our job description in a much more down to earth and much less glamorous way. Included in our inherited duties is the call to shepherd God’s people.
James Rebanks, a real life, working shepherd from England, wrote a book entitled: The Shepherd’s Life;. In a newspaper interview, he offered a glimpse of the challenges that come with that job.
You need to be tough as old boots. Imagine working for weeks on end in the rain, and then snow, and lambs dying of hypothermia, with the difference between life and death being you and your knowledge. Even if you do your best, they still die, and you will need to keep going.
It is all about endurance. Digging in. Holding on.
You will also need to be emotionally tough, because part of shepherding is that things don’t just die; they are killed. Lambs are bred and sold for meat. Nature kills as well.
You’ll need the patience of a saint, too, because sheep test you to the limit, with a million innovative ways to escape, ail, or die.
The apprenticeship period for a shepherd is as about 40 years. You are just a “boy” or a “lass” until you are about 60. It takes that long to really know a mountain, the vagaries of its weather and grazing, to know the different sheep, marks, shepherds, bloodlines, and to earn the respect of other shepherds. ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ is published by Allen Lane.
In offering the image of Himself as shepherd, The Lord was fully aware of what would be demanded of Him in return for His work of gathering us together, nourishing us and protecting us, and finding and retrieving us when we stray. Jesus gave His life for His flock. Authentic discipleship requires the same self-sacrifice.
If there are any shepherds among us here in mid-Michigan, they are certainly few in number. But there are tens of thousands of parents. The work of parenting is every bit as demanding, especially when it comes to the spiritual well-being of our children. We live in a day and age when there are countless things that capture the attention of the younger generation, causing them to wander away from the safety and nourishment of the Christian Community. Separated from God’s people, their spiritual well-being is in grave danger.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, it is especially appropriate to consider the efforts of Christian mothers, who most often take the lead in forming our children into the next generation of disciples…teaching them to be PRIESTS…PROPHETS…AND KINGS.
Very often, moms have to be “as tough as old boots” in order to defend the spiritual lives of their kids. The vocation of Christian mother requires a great deal of endurance. In going about the work of passing on our faith, they have to dig in and hold on with the patience of a saint. And tragically, even after they have done all they can do…it often appears that they have failed. At those times, they have to draw on the reserves of emotional and spiritual strength that come from understanding that they are not alone in this work. Christ the Good Shepherd is right beside them, and at the right time, He will call out their child’s name…and all will be well.
And so…on this Mother’s Day, we give God thanks for the women who give us life and then continue to protect and nourish that life…at great personal sacrifice. We pray that God will reward them abundantly.