Jn 10:1-10; 1 Pet 2:20-25; Ps 22
Today our Easter readings take us in a new direction:
we no longer have direct accounts of the various Resurrection appearances of the Lord,
but, instead, we have different words that the Lord Jesus said shortly before He died
-words that we are able to read and understand differently I the light of his Resurrection.
This Sunday, the 4th of Easter, is always ‘Good Shepherd’ when we think of how He shepherds us,
and, we pray across the world today that He might raise up new priests for us to be our shepherds.
I know that many of us have read many things in news reports over the last couple months,
but, as a priest, I was very struck by a statistic quoted by Pope Francis in his Holy Thursday Mass:
He noted that, “In these days, more than 60 [priests] have died here in Italy, attending to the sick in the hospitals,”
calling them “the saints next door, priests who gave their lives in service.”
In the UK, our media have reported our doctors and nurses who have died caring for infected
-and, of course, one of the ways, we need to shepherd others is by caring for the body, for physical health.
The non-British media have perhaps paid more attention to those who have died caring for the infected, IN ORDER to care for their SOULS.
Beyond those 60, many other priests have died simply because they were already frail, or old, had health conditions
but, as of that date [3 weeks ago], at least 60 had died in Italy BECAUSE they were administering the SACRAMENTS to the dying.
The Lord Jesus calls Himself, “The Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11).
God cares for us in many ways, including the body,
He tells us that if He clothes the lilies of the field with such beauty and glory (Mt 6:25-34) then He will care even more for us.
But our readings this year, Year A, remind us that He is primarily “the shepherd of your SOULS”(1 Pet 2:25).
The beauty of the lily is here today and gone tomorrow.
Youthful human bodily beauty is the same.
The soul, in contrast, lasts forever.
And the Lord Jesus has come to make our souls beautiful.
The Lord Jesus has come, as we just heard, “that they might have life, and have it to the full”(Jn 10:10).
What is a “full” life?
What is a life, to use the image in today’s psalm, with “a cup overflowing”(Ps 22:5)
Well, it’s not a life full of gadgets and worldliness and all the materialistic things the lockdown stops us having.
And even, post-Lent, in Eastertide, “fullness” isn’t about more chocolate and cake.
A full life is a life living with the Lord and in the Lord Jesus.
The good Shepherd “laid down His life for His sheep”(Jn 10:11)
He died, to be the sacrifice that puts right what was wrong with our souls, our sins.
He lives, to be the life that TRULY lives in us, a different kind of life.
He shepherds our souls:
By forgiving our sins;
By teaching us how to live
-not living for self, but living in love, love for others and love for Him
-not living for possession or gluttony, but, again, living for love;
By guiding us through the events of life
-His providential hand is always at work;
By the strength of his grace
-working within us;
By meeting us in the sacraments
-this is the form of shepherding those priests died to impart.
Christ established 7 sacraments
-7 different ways that He touches us
-7 different ways that He gives our souls what they need.
These 7 moments of the spiritual life parallel the physical life
reborn in Baptism
matured in Confirmation
fed and incorporated in Holy Communion
directed for our state of life: be it in marriage or priesthood
healed of our sins in confession
and, lastly, when the ultimate wound of death comes calling,
there is a final anointing sacrament of healing
to carry is across that last wound
That, He who called Himself “the gate”(Jn 10:9)
might leads us through to “restful waters” & “green pastures”(Ps 22:2)
Those 60 priests died shepherding others to that home.
I, and the other priests around here, have all been recently trained in the local hospitals with PPE equipment to be ready to do the same.
Jesus died to leads us home.
Jesus lives to leads us home.
Let’s remember, today, that this is the ultimate shepherding we need to seek from Him.