HOMILY SUNDAY 4 – C
The Greatest Vocation – Good Shepherd Sunday
(Acts 3:14, 43-52; Palm 100; Rev 7:9, 14b-17; Jn 10:27-30)
How would you like to give life to others?
Believe in the Good News of Jesus, and bring salvation and eternal life to others.
These are such simple words, yet they hold mind-boggling implications. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we are reminded that by our baptism and discipleship of Jesus, we, who are shepherded by Jesus, are also called to be shepherds to others. And that shepherding involves bringing salvation, even eternal life, to the ends of the earth. What a missionary mandate!
The gospel is clear. Those who believe in Jesus as Son of God, as one with the Father, who obey him and try to pattern their lives after him, will have eternal life. They will be secure within the relationship of the Father and the Son, a security no one can take from them. They won’t have to worry about whether or not they will go to heaven after they die, because heaven for them has already begun – they are already living in the reign of God.
The reading from Revelations gives us a glimpse of heaven – a vision of the inclusivity and unity that blows away any sectarian narrowness and exclusivity. Heaven is where a multitude of people from all tribes and nations are gathered in peaceful and joyful praise and worship around the pierced Lamb of God at the center of God’s throne.
The first reading then drives home our invitation, challenge and vocation – the greatest of all vocations – to bring to other people salvation, eternal life, in a word, the life of heaven. We are to introduce them to a life of joy in the Holy Spirit. We are to lead them to the Word of God that will produce that eternal life within them.
Brothers and sisters, what are we waiting for? Jesus is Risen! He has overcome the power of sin, death and all darkness, and has opened up for us a new way of life. He has raised us up and renewed us in the Spirit. We are now commissioned, like Paul and Barnabas, to go into the synagogues and arenas of the world to bring to others this Good News. We are to be a light to the gentiles bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.
How are we to do this? May I suggest in very simple ways: listening to others; showing compassion; sharing our faith in Jesus and his resurrection; understanding others; giving them reason to hope; sharing our own healing journey with them. Allow me to share one small example with you:
Returning north years back, I gave a ride to a young lady that we will call Rhonda. She was hitch-hiking back home from a stint in jail for breaching her parole, a parole from her first offense of drinking on her community which was a dry reserve. A 26-year old mother of three, her current boyfriend in jail, the father of her children looking after the kids, she tried to make light of her situation, calling it all a ‘holiday’ but underneath her carefree façade, it was obvious there was a deep hurt that was probably the source of the drinking.
I gently invited her into conversation, and her story began to unfold. She had quit school because her teacher was making sexual advances towards her, and she was afraid to tell anyone. Her mother was still alive, but sickly, and she was afraid she would die soon. Her father had died six years earlier. She said she was close to him, but then admitted he was an alcoholic and used to beat her mom.
Her reaction to his abusive behavior was to sit still, be quiet and in that sense, she became the ‘lost child’ and with a laugh, admitted that she still was – lost in alcohol. Then she blurted out her father used to accuse her of not being his child. That was when she started drinking and became a teen-age alcoholic. She admitted she felt fear, anger, sadness, loss and grief when she remembered her father.
I shared with her my own experience of anger towards my father, and the process of forgiving and being reconciled with him. I told her about the letter expressing my feelings towards him that I wrote and read out loud to a pillow, eleven years after his death, and what a moment of healing that was for both of us. I wish now I would have had a copy of my book Walk A New Pathto give her which contains that story.
When we arrived at the intersection where she was getting off, I took out the small bible I carried in the glove box of the car. I shared with her Mt 18:15 where Jesus teaches the necessity of forgiving, and shows us how to do just that. I encouraged her to write a letter to her father with love as a way of trying to forgive him and being reconciled with him. She said she had a bible in her pocket, and would try. I prayed with her for a moment, and we parted. As I drove away I felt that joy of the Holy Spirit Paul talks about in the second reading. I was sure she went on her way with a sense of hope she did not have before – hope not just for another ride, but for a new life for herself.
As I looked back over this incident, the words of the first reading seem to ring so true: “I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth,” “Those destined for eternal life became believers,” “Thus, the word of the Lord spread throughout the region,” “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” My brothers and sisters, there is no vocation greater than this, and we are all called to that great missionary task.
God is calling our youth to serve their brothers and sisters as priests, religious, married couples and lay leaders. This is vocation Sunday – let our response be generous.
The Eucharist is a sharing in that heavenly banquet right here and now, that makes present for us the healing love and forgiveness of God that we are commissioned to take to the ends of the earth.
So, believe in the Good News of Jesus, and bring salvation and eternal life to others.