Homily Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
· Acts 4:8-12;
· Psalm 118:1-9;21-23,26,28-29;
· I John 3:1-2 ;
· John 10:11-18
Love & the Healing Power of Christ the Good Shepherd!
Today we celebrate the gift, the healing power of love which Christ, the corner-stone of our lives, the Good Shepherd, has lavished upon us- his sheep. This shepherd-sheep relationship heard in today’s Gospel is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (Jer 23, Ezek 34, Ps 23 etc). Its meaning and demand were familiar to the people of Jesus’ time, in the Mediterranean. No wonder the Johannine Jesus, the savior of the world, unequivocally and metaphorically declares:
“I am the Good Shepherd (He didn’t say, I am the false shepherd). A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….I know mine and mine know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father… I lead and they must hear my voice and there will be one flock.. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again,” (John 10:11-18).
Christ's power lies in his love for us and in how he leads us. It lies in how he cares, and how he listens to us. Christ knows us by name. He knows our in and out. He knows our weaknesses and strengths. He leads, feeds and loves us voluntarily and with compassion and exemplary humility and holiness of life. It is not forced. It is not faked. It is not parochial. It is universal- crossing human barriers and boundaries. It is not for material gain. He was not hired, but Christ, this “Good Shepherd,” unlike “Israel’s shepherds) is God the Father’s incarnate taking a healing and a loving journey in His Son in order to save us, the blind, the crippled and the poor and the homeless so dear to Pope Francis’s heart.
Compare that with a bad hired shepherd, who works for money. This type of shepherd does not care if the sheep is scattered or is devoured by wolves. Remember modern wolves could come in different forms including false teaching, poor leadership, secularism, Gnosticism and pelegianism cited by Pope Francis in his Gaudete ex Exultate).
Israel’s Scriptures including Ezekiel 34, that today’s gospel passage may be alluding to-distinguishes Christ from false shepherds.
Ezekiel 34 says:
“You shepherd of Israel you have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherd feed the sheep. You eat the fat, you cloth yourselves with the wool,...you have not strengthen the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back he strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”
The difference cannot be too clear. The ultimate power of false shepherds is selfishness, while the ultimate power of Christ the Good Shepherd is selflessness; His voluntariness in, feeding, listening, knowing, caring, loving healing, and saving us.
The healing of the crippled in today’s 1st reading is rightly taken by Peter to be the healing power of Christ the Good Shepherd. Filled with the Holy Spirit Peter of the post-resurrection church proclaims in the temple area “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,” (Acts 4:8-12).
Are not today’s scriptures challenging to us in our respective needs, and faith –struggles. As well summarized in the 2nd reading, 1 John 3:1-2, part of the challenges facing us today is how we can get to know Christ, the Good Shepherd and appreciate how much he constantly cares, loves and watches over us, his flock. It is get to decipher between a Good Shepherd and strange voices of false shepherds today. It is how to get to realize that he is that spiritual physician and healer who does not turn anyone away from treatment and care as he did not turned away the cripple of the Acts of the Apostle chapter 4.
Remember the Gnosticism and pelegianism of Pope Francis’ 2018 Apostolic Exhortation. False shepherds can show up in inappropriate TV ads and shows. They can show up in bad literature, abusive politics, wrong choice of nations' leadership and philosophies. They can even show up in the bad company we keep, in the trials that come our way, and in the forms of economic, political, cultural, religious and social hardships we go through.
But we have the confidence that the power of Christ, the Good Shepherd, the corner stone of our lives and families endures forever. His power to lead us, love us, feed us, provide for us, listen to us when we pray, know each of us by name, care for us, look after us especially when we go astray, heal us when we are sick, console us when we are bereaved, and save us with his saving grace, lives on! Love is the power of Christ the Good Shepherd!
- 1. In the light of today’s Scriptures what would you consider your weaknesses that Christ the healer –Good Shepherd is able to take care of?
- 2. What would you consider signs of false –shepherds in our modern society? And what about responsibilities of the flock?
- 3. How do we lead the cripples of our culture, dioceses, and faith communities to the care and love of Christ the Good Shepherd?