May 7, 2017: 4th Sunday of Easter A
Many parishes throughout our diocese are celebrating First Communion during this month (and Donaldsonville is celebrating it this weekend). It’s so precious to see little children all dressed up in white dresses and suits, surrounded by family, receiving Eucharist for the first time. I’m always tickled by children not quite the age to receive their First Communion stand before me in the communion line waiting for me to give them communion. Some little ones wink at me and lift their hands up expecting me to hand them communion. Other little ones are more direct and tell me outright, “I want one.” Written on their disappointed faces after I simply bless them is their desire and hunger to receive. I wish that all of us who come to receive communion have that kind of fervent desire to be fed by Jesus our Shepherd.
On this 4th Sunday of Easter, which is also known as the Good Shepherd Sunday, Our Lord desires us to entrust our lives unto him, for he is the shepherd of our soul who knows each one of us, our needs, our merits, and our faults. He never tires of seeking us out and forgiving us. He gives eternal life to us by receiving us into his sheepfold through Baptism. He strengthens our faith by giving us his Holy Spirit in Confirmation. He supplies food for our souls by Holy Eucharist and by the divine words of the holy Scriptures.
God’s thirst for us is unconditional and unchanging, even when we find ourselves lost in the struggle with sin. Far from diminishing God’s yearning for us, our brokenness unleashes in him yet deeper wellsprings of tenderness and mercy. In each moment of our wandering, God is already there awaiting us, along the very path of our betrayal. Knocking at the door of our heart, God calls us back in a refrain that has echoed down the ages since the Garden: “Where are you?” (Gen 3: 9). He heals the wounds of our souls by the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthens us in our illness and old age by the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. From the beginning of our lives to the end of our earthly pilgrimage, God loves us as we are, and with all our limitations.
In response to His abiding love, we too are called to become good shepherds towards those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.
Take for example what happened in battlefield during the Korean War. A soldier dying on a battlefield asked a medic to find him a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the wounded man and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “You won’t survive if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied, “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand.
We as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants are all shepherds. When we respond to our baptismal promises, nurtured by the Eucharist, we open ourselves to the power of God’s transforming love. Only then will our hearts become like His, and we will not ignore human suffering and injustice. Only then will we follow the Good Shepherd and truly feed others with the Bread of Life.