HOMILY EASTER WEEK 03 01
Security, Identity and Mission
Memorial: St. François de Laval
(2 Tim 4:1-5; Ps 96; Jn 10:11-16)
In Canada, the usual readings for today are replaced by special readings chosen for the memorial of St. François de Laval. Given his shepherding role as bishop, one can see why.
These readings can be summed up in three words: security, identity and mission.
In the gospel, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He goes on to describe how well he knows the sheep, very much like the way he knows the Father. So, the creator of this amazing and astounding universe knows each of us by name, wants us to have the same intimate relationship with him as he enjoys with the Father. That fact that our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – cares so deeply for us and wants to know us so intimately, should give us a deep, profound feeling of security and serenity. In the words of Julien of Norwich, “All will be well, and all will be well, and in the end, all manner of being will be well.”
That reality also gives us our identity – we are the sheep who belong to the flock of this good shepherd. The late motivational speaker, Serge LeClerc, stressed consistently during his talks how as a gang leader involved in organized crime, he was always looking for identity. We can rest in the knowledge of who we are – beloved sheep of the good shepherd, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, beloved Son of the Father. Our identity is clear.
Secure in the Father’s love shared with us by Jesus, and knowing who we are in him, we are naturally given and should even sense a need to carry out a mission to share that love with the world. St. Paul in his letter to Timothy solemnly urges him to “proclaim the message” of this love, as a way of countering the always present tendency of people, like sheep, to wander off towards some elusive and new fad or teaching that might look more attractive, but in the end prove to be empty and even false.
Psalm 96 for its part urges us to proclaim God’s marvellous deeds to all the nations. There may be an intended double-interpretation of that last part – to proclaim to all the nations God’s marvellous deeds, and also to proclaim God’s marvellous deeds to all the nations!
From May 3rd– 5th, the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement held an LTR session (Leading Through Relationships) in Kelowna attended by about 45 encountered couples. It was a powerful experience of God’s love for us and the world, the couples’ love for each other, and their love for the world and for couples out there who need a nudge to take their relationship to a higher, deeper level. I was immersed in and struck by the power of that love, and the earnest, intense desire of these couples to work for the Lord through their ministry of writing talks, forming community, inviting couples to the weekend, and providing an underlying structure for it all to happen. The love of the good shepherd was very present, and the sheep growing by leaps and bounds into missionaries of God’s love.
St. François de Montmorency Laval (1623 – 1708), whom the Canadian Church honors today, was the first bishop of Quebec. Born in France to a noble family, he was educated by the Jesuits and ordained in 1647. Despite controversy, he was made bishop in 1658 and arrived in New France the following year. In 1663, he founded the Seminary of Quebec – now Laval University – to supply priests for his vast diocese which extended to all the French speaking territory of North America. He later established a minor seminary and an industrial school. His pastoral concern for the settlers and the Indigenous people often resulted in conflict with civil authorities. François was an outstanding administrator, a generous benefactor, a caring bishop and a pious man whose spiritual influence as widespread. He well deserved his title of “Père de la Patrie” (Father of the Homeland) and was canonized in 2014. St. François de Laval is the patron of the bishops of Canada.
The Eucharist is the banquet provided by our good shepherd, Jesus, who nourishes us with his Word and his own Body and Blood. May our celebration deepen our faith in him as our shepherd, strengthen our relationship with him as his beloved sheep, and empower us to share his love with the world, as did St. François de Laval, and as does the WWME movement today.