Homily for the fourth Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday
Dearly Beloved, this fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as the Good Shepherd Sunday. Holy Mother, the church reminds us that Jesus guides and supports his church like a Good Shepherd. The assurance is that, as a good shepherd, Jesus never leaves his flock unattended. We are all destined to get home safely with him, if only we do not abandon the sheepfold for some reason. Just do not be frightened by anything, but keep on holding on to him, even when you have reasons to let go of him. There are some who after baptism and even after confirmation, have left the truth about Christ in His Church. Theirs is a sad reality, against the will and plan of God. Some have allowed the challenges of married life to lead them away from the faith.
St. Peter reminds us in the first reading, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved." (apart from the name Jesus). This affirmation comes from the words of our savior himself that “I am the way the truth and the Life, no one can come to the Father except through me”. Friends, it’s only Jesus who saves. Outside Christ there is no salvation. What about those of other faiths that are not Christian? Like Moslems, Hindus, Budhists, African Traditional Believers, etc.?
Paragraph 847 of the catechism of the Catholic Church states among other things: This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
Yes some may not know Christ and his saving power directly in this life. But they will eventually come to know after this life when all truth is revealed that they were saved through Christ. It is possible for them to be saved through Christ but a very difficult one for that matter.
Many tragedies confront us, day in day out. But the most unfortunate as I see now, are people who would not want to have anything to do with Christ nor the gospel. Such people have become slaves to their conditions and situations, whether rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, healthy or sick, intelligent or unintelligent. These are people who have allowed their situations to dictate the reality of the saving power or otherwise of Christ and His gospel. So many have become slaves to a whole bunch of things that promise so much and yet have left their lives empty and hollow and bereft of any meaning and purpose. Such people live in constant insecurity, hopelessness, and misery.
One of the blessings of Easter, is that, Christ by his death and resurrection has paid the price for which held us bound to our sins. We are therefore not slaves and victims to sin. We are sons and daughters of God.
The second reading from the epistle of John reminds us of this fact: “Beloved, we are God's children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
My Dear friends, there are still countless people who have not come to experience this freedom that comes from believing in Christ. Unfortunately, some continue to live as slave to their negative habits and lifestyles. Many are struggling for peace, joy and meaning in their lives but from the wrong places. There may be some of us who still don’t feel redeemed by the power of Christ’s resurrection. All because life continues to be a struggle for them.
I do remember a movie “The Making of Kings” from Ghana. It’s about a young man, who for some circumstances didn’t know that the generous wealthy man he was serving in his household, was his biological father. Apparently, this wealthy man had met this boy at a park and offered to help him. It was not until a time this wealthy man was so sick and some old family members of the boy came to visit and show appreciation for taking their boy in that they all realized they knew each other. So much changed instantly for this boy as he moved from the slaves quarters to the main house. It took him so much time to adjust to the status of a child and not a slave. But you could imagine his joy for this revelation.
Dearly Beloved, If there are any assuring words I can offer, then I am happy to remind and affirm you as a child of God. Something you should be proud and live accordingly. Christ died and rose that you may come to your fitting status in God; His child. Therefore, do not allow any situation good or bad, shift your focus of your real identity. Do not allow anyone to treat you baldly or abuse you for any reason. Hold yourself high and be proud of your new life in Christ Jesus. Here is a simple fact, you and I go through a lot of trials in life, things and situations that break us physically and emotionally. The good news is that, Easter brings us the hard truth that peace, joy and meaning are still possible no matter our situation or circumstance. Jesus our savior makes this possible.
The urgency for which people outside the sheepfold need to hear about this new life in Christ compels us to pray in support of the work of our priests and also encourage our children to embrace the priesthood and religious life. As there continues to be an increase in the number of Hispanics in the USA, it is your duty as Hispanics to educate and motivate your children to lead you. How long will you look forward to a person like me from Africa to speak to you about the gospel of Jesus to the generation that will come after you. God does not send priests from heaven. He takes from among your children.
For some of you, young men and women who feel called to a life like I have, I am always willing and ready to be available and answer all the questions you have. Just let me know.
I take this last opportunity to encourage you to be present and also invite others who are searching for hope and meaning to join in our retreat.