4th Sunday of Easter (C)

FR TONY'S HOMILYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily

Fr. Tony’s Homily


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TITANIC (8:22) – Stern sinking scene. 

Whatever Happens Don’t Let Go

Choose  an anecdote which is somehow related to the rest of your homily. Adapt as time allows, and use your own words. A video is provided to help you make further connections to the story/anecdote by highlighting important details, and understanding the characters and settings. 

There is a wonderful scene towards the end of the movie, Titanic.   As the ship is preparing to take its final plunge into the cold waters of the Atlantic, Jack Dawson and Rose are hanging straight onto the edge of the ship.  Jack turns to Rose and tells her: “Don’t let go. Whatever happens, don’t let go.”

There is something profound in knowing that there is someone who wants us to hold on, no matter how difficult the situation.  As children, we held onto our parents for guidance and protection.  When we are adults, we hope to find a spouse or close friend who will hold us when we are hurt and carry us when we stumble.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the profound revelation from Jesus that God intends to “hold us” through every storm and every difficulty of life.  Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, offers us double protection.   He assures us that we are in his hands and nothing will ever take us from him.  He further assures us that we are also in the Father’s hands.   Nothing can ultimately hurt us.

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SALT AND LIGHT MEDIA (5:01) – Pope John XXII will forever be remembered for calling the historic Second Vatican Council. But to his large family living in Sotto il Monte in Nothern Italy, he was always Angelo, the simple, humble priest and a loving son.

Pope St. John XXIII

Pope St. John XXIII began his mission by promising to be “a good shepherd.” Here is an anecdote that perfectly conveys the humble spirit of Pope St. John XXIII as a good shepherd. On the evening when he announced the opening of the Second Vatican Council — the first one since 1870 — he couldn’t sleep. Finally, he called himself to order: “Angelo, why aren’t you sleeping? Who’s running the Church, you or the Holy Spirit? So sleep.” And he did.

He brought a real revolution to the Apostolic Palace by getting rid of the three prescribed genuflections in private audiences and by his impromptu conversations with workers and gardeners on the streets of Vatican City. He was the first Pope in history “to pay tribute to the part played by women in public life and to the growing awareness of their human dignity.” Best of all, by convening the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John XXIII, led by the Holy Spirit, set in motion a spirit of reform that continues to our day. In September of 2000, this son of Italian peasants was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II; he was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.


“I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd:”

Years ago the great actor Richard Burton was given a grand reception in his childhood parish. While replying to the complimentary speeches in the parish auditorium he asked if there was anything, they specially wanted to hear from him.

After a minute’s pause his old pastor asked him if he could recite the Good Shepherd Psalm (Psalm 23), which he had taught Burton in his Sunday school. A strange look came over the actor’s face. He paused for a moment, and then said, “I will, on one condition—that after I have recited it, you, my pastor and teacher, will do the same.” “I,” said the old, retired pastor, “am not an actor, but, if you wish it, I shall do so.”

Impressively the actor began the Psalm. His voice and intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound, and, as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from the audience. As it died away, the old pastor rose from his wheelchair and began to recite the same Psalm. His voice was feeble and shivering and his tone was not faultless. But, when he finished, there was not a dry eye in the room. The actor rose and his voice quivered as he said, ‘”Ladies and gentlemen, I reached your eyes and ears, but my old pastor has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

This Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus wants us to know him by experiencing him and to become good shepherds to those entrusted to our care.


“LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.”

On a recent highway trip, one bumper sticker in particular grabbed my eye and caused me to consider its frank command: “LEAD, FOLLOW, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” In a sense, the Scripture readings for today, Good Shepherd Sunday, proffer the same challenge to believers. Christianity admits of no mediocrity; the decision of Faith which discipleship demands requires a daily deliberateness and a constantly renewed certainty. Either Jesus and his way of life are accepted and followed, or they are rejected. There is no middle path; to live otherwise is to become an obstacle in the way of others. As Christians, each of us is called to be both a leader and a follower.

Ultimately, as John points out in the Gospel, our leader is Jesus, the loving shepherd who calls us away from sin and self to union with him and one another.

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Fr. Tony's Homily

Introduction

FR. TONY’S HOMILIES – The fourth Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is also the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” Each year on this Sunday, we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who devotedly and kindly takes care of his flock. The title “pastor” means shepherd. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects his flock—responsibilities that belong to all Church leaders, parents, civil leaders, and all who are in charge of others.

Fr. Tony's Homily

Summary of the Readings

First Reading

Today’s first reading describes how Paul and Barnabas opted to listen to the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and follow him, and how, like their Master, they were rebuffed and rejected when they tried to share the Good News of salvation. It also suggests that the sympathy of the early Christians for the Gentiles caused a rupture with Judaism.

THE FIRST READING EXPLAINED

Additional insights you may want to include in your summary of the first reading. 

Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor (present day Turkey). On the Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas entered the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia where they were invited to give a word of exhortation to the people. They explained that since Christ had been rejected by the Jews, Christians were obliged to preach the Gospel to all the nations, thus emphasizing the universal mission of Christianity. In other words, since the Jews had rejected the word of God, it was being offered to the Gentiles. But those Jews in Antioch who opposed the idea of preaching to the Gentiles gathered enough support to expel the apostles from their territory. Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas remained faithful to the Gospel that Jesus had revealed. They “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” and continued to preach to the Gentiles who welcomed them with delight (v. 48). The mission of the Church is indeed a continuation of the ministry of salvation begun by Jesus. Is the seed of the Gospel still being sown to the ends of the earth? Are the poor, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the hungry, the thirsty, the lost, and the imprisoned still the primary focus of our service?

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Responsorial Psalm

Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 100) reminds us that “…the Lord is God: He made us, His we are – His people, the flock He tends.”


Second Reading

The second reading, taken from the book of Revelation, depicts Jesus as both the glorified Lamb and the Shepherd. John’s vision encourages his readers with the assurance that every person who has ever followed Christ and led others to him and who has suffered rejection and persecution will also know the unending joy of victory and have a share in everlasting life.

THE SECOND READING EXPLAINED

Additional insights you may want to include in your summary of the second reading. 

The book of Revelation, the vision Jesus gave to St. John the Evangelist,  to be written down, was meant to instruct and  encourage persecuted Christians, not only of the First Century but of all centuries. The Vision presents Jesus as both the slain and glorified Lamb and the Good Shepherd.  In the latter role, he protects and refreshes his flock when they suffer persecution.  John has a vision of all the sheep, representing the universal Church — people “from every nation, race, people, and tongue”  —  rescued by the Good Shepherd.  The Lamb will shepherd and shelter those who, with his help, win through. He will feed them well and will wipe “away every tear from their eyes.”  The essence of the vision is that Christ, the Son of the Living God Incarnate, now risen from the dead, glorified, will, in his glorified humanity, have the chief place in Heaven, and that all rational creatures will sing his praises forever.  John’s visions promised his readers that Jesus, the Passover Lambwould shepherd them, providing them with shelter, protection, and safe passage to the life-giving waters of eternity (Ps 23; 80; 35:10; Is 40:11; Ez 34:23; Jer 2:13).

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Gospel

The Gospel text offers us both great comfort and a great challenge. The comforting message is that no one can snatch the sheep out of Jesus’ Father’s hands. The challenge is that pastors should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care., and their flock, the laity, should be good sheep, obedient and helpful to their shepherds.

GOSPEL EXEGESIS

Additional insights you may want to include in your summary of the Gospel reading. 

The context: It was December, wintertime, probably the time of the Jewish Hanukkah festival (the Feast of Dedication), which commemorated the triumph of the Jewish commander Judas Maccabaeus over the Syrian leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 165 BC).  Jesus was walking in the Temple on the east side, which offered protection against the cold winds from the desert.  The Jews had gathered around him.  They were not sure whether or not he was the promised Messiah because there were many such wandering preachers and healers in those days.  Hence, they asked him directly whether he was the Christ. Instead of giving them an equally direct answer, Jesus claimed that he was the Good Shepherd and explained to them his role.

Shepherds in the Old Testament: In the Old Testament, the image of the Shepherd is often applied to God as well as to the leaders of the people.  The book of Exodus represents Yahweh several times as a Shepherd.

  • The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel compare Yahweh’s care and protection of His people to that of a shepherd.  “He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against His breast and leading the mother ewes to their rest” (Is 40:11).
  • Ezekiel represents God as a loving Shepherd who searches diligently for the lost sheep.
  • Psalm 23 is David’s famous picture of God as The Good Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul” (RSV, 2nd Catholic Edition).   The prophets often used harsh words to scold the selfish and insincere shepherds (or leaders) of their day.
  • Jer 23:1: “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of My pasture to be destroyed and scattered.”
  • Ez 34:2: “Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves!  Shepherds ought to feed their flock.”

The Good Shepherd in the New Testament: Introducing himself as the Good Shepherd of his flock, Jesus makes three claims in today’s Gospel.

  1. He knows his sheep and his sheep hear his voice: Just as the Palestinian shepherds knew each sheep of their flock by name, and the sheep knew their shepherd and his voice, so Jesus knows each one of us, our needs, our merits, and our faults.  He loves us as we are, with all our limitations, and he expects us to return his love by keeping his words.  He speaks to us at every Mass, through the Bible, through our pastors, through our parents, through our friends, and through the events of our lives.  “God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our consciences, and He shouts to us in our pain!” (C.S. Lewis).
  2. He gives eternal life to us, his sheep by receiving us into his sheepfold and giving us Faith through Baptism, and then he strengthens that Faith in Confirmation.  He supplies food for our souls in the Holy Eucharist and in the Divine words of the Holy Bible.  He makes our society holy by the Sacraments of Matrimony and the priesthood (Holy Orders.
  3. He protects his sheep by placing them in the loving hands of his Almighty Father.  Without him to guide us and protect us, we are an easy prey for the spiritual wolves of this world, including Satan and his minions.

In chapter ten of John’s Gospel, Jesus adds two more roles to those of the Good Shepherd.  

  • He goes in search of stray lambs and heals the sick ones.  Jesus heals the wounds of our souls through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in illness and old age with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
  • Jesus dies for his sheep:  Just as the shepherds of ancient days protected their sheep from wild animals and thieves by risking their own lives, so Jesus died in expiation for the sins of all people.

Through today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches one of the central aspects of the ministerial priesthood: the priest as shepherd.  It means that a priest is one who, by his consecration, lives for others.  The title, “Father”, like the title, “Shepherd,” expresses a relation of loving service to others in everything, from the most sacred ministries to the most trivial chores.

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Fr. Tony's Homily

Life Message

Let us become good shepherds

Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd.  Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, etc. are all shepherds.  We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.  Parents must be especially careful of their duties, thus giving their children good example through the way they live their Christian lives as husband and wife and as parents.

MORE LIFE MESSAGES

Additional life messages from Fr. Tony

Let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds.   Jesus is the High Priest, the bishops are the successors of the apostles, the pastors, assisted by their Deacons,  are their helpers and the parishioners are the sheep.  Hence, as the good sheep of the parish, parishioners are expected to a) hear and follow the voice of their shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling, and advice; b) receive the spiritual food our pastors provide by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments, and by attending prayer services, renewal programs, and missions; c) cooperate with our pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by lovingly offering them constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties, by praying for them always and forgiving them at need; and d) cooperate with our fellow-parishioners in the activities of various councils, ministries, and parish associations.


Let us pray for  generous responses to all the vocations

God offers men  to enter the priesthood, the diaconate, the mission fields, and all the vocations God offers  both men and women  to enter the consecrated  life, so that we may have more good shepherds to lead, feed, and protect the Catholic community here an abroad. Let us remember that the duty of fostering vocations is the concern of the whole believing community, and we discharge that responsibility primarily by living exemplary Christian lives. Parents foster vocations by creating a God-centered climate in homes based on solid Christian values. They should pray with their children for vocations during the family prayer time and speak encouraging words about their pastors, the missionaries, and the religious, instead of criticizing these servants of God. Such an atmosphere in the family will definitely foster vocations from such families. Financial support of seminarians is also a positive contribution to promoting vocations.

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End of homily

Fr. Tony's Homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, or congregations.

The young pastor was teaching the 23rd Psalm to the Sunday school children. He told them that they were sheep who needed guidance.  Then the priest asked, “If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?”– obviously indicating himself.  A silence of a few seconds followed.  Then a young boy said, “Jesus. Jesus is the Shepherd.”  The young priest, obviously caught by surprise, said to the boy, “Well then, who am I?”  The boy frowned thoughtfully and then said, “I guess you must be a sheep dog.”

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