FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 4th SUNDAY OF EASTER, April 25, 2021:
In my homily for Easter Sunday, I shared a quote from a favorite book of mine. It said, “Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.” This quote has always struck me so poignantly because in my younger days, I knew what it felt like to be far from God. As a teenager, I was not terribly strong in my faith. In fact, I had only the merest spark of faith. A well-named Doubting Thomas, I simply did not yet know the Lord in any real or personal sense, and I had no idea of God’s plan for my life. But, then in my early 20s, I felt drawn for the first time in my life to the Mass and to the Eucharist; I started on that road coming home to God and the Church. And when I began going to Mass, I started to have powerful experiences of God’s true presence there. The Mass began to speak to me in ways it never had before. I felt the presence of Jesus that I had never felt before. I remember receiving the Eucharist at one of these Masses and in a spiritual sense this was my first Communion because it was the first time that I truly believed and knew in my heart that this was Jesus; and that He was real. And when I met Him personally, for the first time, in that Eucharist, He began to show me who He wanted me to be. It was through meeting Jesus in the Eucharist that I discovered my vocation, my calling, my place in God’s Kingdom.
Today we hear Jesus tell us in our passage from St. John, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and mine know me.” This message of the Good Shepherd is an important one for us because it tells us something important about Jesus, and it also tells us something important about ourselves. Jesus shows us that our relationship with Him is not distant and sterile; but instead it is deeply relational and profoundly intimate. God loves us specifically, personally, individually, and intimately. He knows us, and we know Him. We recognize His voice speaking into the challenges of our lives, and we follow. Jesus reminds us that what He wants more than anything is to know us, and that we intimately know Him.
St. Francis of Assisi said, “You are what You are before God. That and nothing more.” And nothing less. When I started feeling drawn to the Holy Mass so many years ago, I was being drawn into my best self, because it was the version of “me” that God had planned from before time began. Or another way of saying it, as I got to know God better, I got to know myself better; and what God had in store for me. Psalm 139 says it this way, “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” God has known exactly who He wants us to be before we even knew. In the eyes of the Good Shepherd we come to see God more clearly so that He can show us who we are called to be more clearly.
Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, knows each one of us individually. He knows the cares and concerns of our lives. He knows our needs. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. But we first need to listen to His voice. Of course God knows us intimately, but we must take the time to get to know God just as intimately. “The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” God can only reveal His plan for our lives if our eyes are open, our hearts are tuned, and we are seeking that answer, that direction. Our challenge is to create environments that allows us to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, so that we can follow where He leads.
The Good Shepherd helps us to see ourselves through the eyes of faith – as God’s daughters and sons. Through prayer, and so profoundly through the Eucharist, we discover that identity. St. Clare of Assisi spoke of the Eucharist as a mirror – the more we look at Jesus, the more we find ourselves reflected back. When we take the time to enter into that personal relationship with Jesus, to listen and recognize His voice, Jesus helps us discover who we are.
If you want to know what Jesus asks of you; if you want to know what Jesus wants you to do; if you want to know your truest destiny – meet Jesus in prayer He will reveal it to you. Create the space to listen to the Shepherd. Find the time to be alone with God. Strengthen or create new prayer habits for yourselves and for your families. If you do, you just might also be renewed in God’s love for you, God’s plan for you, God’s hopes and dreams for your life.
“I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” May each of us hear that voice of Jesus calling us by name, showing us who He has called us to be.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.