Fourth Sunday of Easter Year A: Reflections (1st Holy Communion) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-6; 1 Pet 2:20b-25 John 10:1-10
Christ, Good Shepherd, Source of our Strength
At least two great things are happening in our parish community today. First, we celebrate Christ, the Good Shepherd, whom our Parish “the Church of the Good Shepherd” is named after. Second, we are very happy for our children and friends who will be receiving their First Holy Communion today- on this “Good Shepherd Sunday,” in the Church of the Good Shepherd!
As for our Parish, we want thank and pray for those founding parishioners and leaders who named this wonderful parish after Christ, the “Good Shepherd.” I have no doubt they understood the biblical imagery of the Good Shepherd, and were familiar with the particular spiritual richness of Psalm 23 and John’s Gospel chapter 10, which spells out those good characteristic of a Good and caring Shepherd unlike what we read in Ezekiel 34, particularly that passage that says;
“Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the Shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves. Should not the Shepherd rather pasture the sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally…” (Ezek 34:1-15).
This is not who Christ is. Christ cares for us. Christ loves us. He protects us . The Risen Christ is the ultimate Shepherd of his people. He will always be the gate, the door, the entrance, the way to our success, the means of ever lasting happiness and the source of eternal joy. Above all, Christ came not that we may lose life, but rather that we may have abundant of life (John 10:10).
He knows us by name and goes before us on our life journeys. He has spiritual marks on our foreheads such that none of us seated here with faith will leave this church un-blessed by Christ, the Chief Shepherd. As a model Shepherd and love giver, Christ teaches us how to love responsibly, how to mentor, guide, advice, lead, direct, catechize, raise our children, and how to shepherd and care for one another. And we want to be able to recognize His voice and His values. We want to feel His divine presence and enjoy His friendship. We want to cease every opportunity of our callings to imitate the post-resurrection apostles , Peter, Philip, he Ethopian Eunuch, Paul (Acts 2:14a, 36-41), expanding the faith to our friends and siblings, enabling others to experience this same loving presence of Our Risen LORD, particularly in the Holy Eucharist.
For our parents and teachers we want to continue with our good works of being that “gate” of honesty, decency, that conduit of faith and morality for our children. However, I must congratulate you. You have done so well. You have proven to be good shepherds to your children . You brought them for baptism and have them celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Today they are beautifully dressed, getting ready for their First Holy Communion- to receive Christ, their Bread of Life (John 6:35-40).
I must tell you children that you are so special today and the more reason we are all here for you. Looking at those beautiful dresses you put on those happy smiles on your faces, you remind me of my first Holy Communion. It was one of the happiest days in my life. After mass, I had photographs taken with the priest, my parents and friends. I was treated with nice meal, chocolate, ice cream. We all ate as a group as a family.
Today you will do the same and celebrate with your parents and your friends. But remember, the Christ that you will receive today loves you and will always be there for you. The Christ that you will receive today will protect you and shepherd you. The Jesus will receive at the Communion today will continue to be the guardian of your soul (1 Pet 2:20b-25). Jesus that you will receive today will be a special meal for your soul. You will need this meal, all your life. Jesus will always protect you at school, home and at your play grounds. So please, remind your parent to bring you to Mass, at least every weekend to receive Christ, your strength.
You will notice that you are not alone. Your parents and many of us will also receive Jesus as a community, eating from the same ciborium (a) and from the same cup. Your First Holy Communion should also remind you that we are one. We are call to share our gifts and to be nice to one another, our friends and to our parents. We don’t want to be selfish, but rather we want to be generous and charitable to others, friends, brothers and sisters- learning from Christ.
When I was appointed as Associate Pastor of this Parish on June 21, 2010, our Bishop prayed for me in the last paragraph of his letter to me, saying, “May Christ, the Good Shepherd, continue to be your model and source of strength.” In the same vain I want to conclude that, may Christ the Good Shepherd bless all you and make this day a very happy day for you and your families. May he bring you great joy and fill your hearts with His tender love.