Pastoral Sharings: "Fourth Sunday of Easter"

Father Alex McAllister SDS
May 11, 2014
Fourth Sunday of Easter

Today we mark the Fourth Sunday of Easter which is more commonly called Good Shepherd Sunday. It is given this name because in each Sunday of the three-year liturgical cycle there is an extract from Chapter Ten of John’s Gospel which is all about the Good Shepherd.
 
In the first part of that Chapter which we are presented with today Christ solemnly tells his disciples a parable about the role of a Good Shepherd. He then goes on to explain that this is his role and teaches his Apostles about how in fact it is he who is the Good Shepherd and indeed that he is the very gate of the sheepfold.
 
We see how this role fits in perfectly with the life of Jesus who is the true Shepherd who, as he explains later on in the chapter, is the one who gives his life for his sheep.
 
On this Sunday we take the Gospel reading as our cue to speak about vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. We do this out of recognition that while we have one true Good Shepherd in Christ we also need other shepherds to lead each of the very many congregations of Christians spread throughout the world.
 
In recent years we have frequently spoken about the shortage of those coming forward to accept this role. Here at St Joseph’s for the first time in many years we have a living example placed before us. After five years of studies Brother Paul was ordained deacon before Christmas and will be ordained to the priesthood on 28th June.
 
We assure him of our heartfelt prayers as he steps up and begins his new ministry of service in the Church. We have certainly benefited from his ministry over the last couple of years and hope we will do so in the future but from his ordination day onwards as a priest.
 
It is now to the next generation that we have to look for future vocations. Most likely it is from among our altar servers that new vocations from within our congregation will come. It is they who are closest to the priest and by serving on the altar they have come to a close appreciation of the Divine Liturgy and understand its importance better than most.
 
So we remind our young people and especially our altar servers to think about the possibility of studying for the priesthood or embracing the religious life. We assure them that these are deeply fulfilling vocations and that they are essential to the ongoing life of the Church.
 
Through one or other of these vocations it is possible to be involved with people at some of the most important moments of their lives and to mediate to them the care Christ has for each member of his Church.
 
Besides giving vitally important pastoral care, they as priests will be very much involved in opening the grace of the sacraments to the people, bringing them in particular the Eucharist and through their preaching opening up the secrets of the scriptures to their listeners.
 
These are highly significant and valued ministries which while they involve many sacrifices also provide many lasting rewards.
 
Shepherding is a wonderful metaphor for the ministry of Christ and his pastors in the Church of today. It has many aspects which Christ’s listeners two thousand years ago would have been much more aware of than we can ever be.
 
We live in the middle of a teeming city while the people to whom Christ was explaining his purposes were mainly peasants; people who had an intimate connection with the land and the animals.
 
His listeners understood very well the role of a shepherd. They knew that while at times it was a lonely task it also meant a wonderful intimacy with the sheep who in their turn depended entirely on their Good Shepherd. It is a role which requires at some moments great bravery and at other times deep patience. It is a role which involves both regular routines and also the ability to think quickly and to make the right decisions very speedily.
 
The task of a shepherd is essentially one of caring and protecting the sheep in his charge. It is much the same for a priest in the Church of today. The priest too leads and guides; he shows by his life what being a Christian today involves. It is at some times a lonely task and at other times it involves deep intimacy with the people.
 
What we discover is that for those with a true vocation it is the most fulfilling thing they could do with their lives. Let us hope and pray that among our congregation and within our families young people see the value of just such a vocation and have the courage to respond to God’s call.
 
The last sentence in our text today is an important one. Christ says, ‘I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’ It is vital to understand this. What Christ wants is for us to live truly fulfilling lives. He wants us to enjoy ourselves; of course he does not mean this is any merely superficial way for what Christ wants is for us to experience is deep and true fulfilment in life.
 
Christ wants us to get the very most out of what life has to offer. He wants us to experience all that life can give us; both its highs and its lows, its pains and its pleasures. By means of these experiences he wants us to end up as wise and deep and fulfilled human beings. He wants us to understand the human heart and to be open and sympathetic friends to all we meet.
 
In short what Christ wants is in his own words for us to ‘live life to the full’. If non-Christians tell you otherwise then put them right. The Lord of Life does not want or need fearful and gullible followers as part of his religion. He does not want or need people with empty heads who follow him because they are too dumbto do anything else.
 
No! What Christ wants is fully functioning human beings; people who are intelligent, people who understand life, people who know what his message entails, people who have the courage of their convictions.
 
And this Church is full of exactly this sort of people. We are not here because we are under pressure, or afraid of a vindictive God. We are not worshiping him because we do not know what else to do on a Sunday morning. We are not meek and mild followers without minds of our own.
 
No, we are here out of conviction. We are here of our own volition; we are here not because we could not think of anything better that we could be doing, we are here because we believe that the very best thing to do is to worship together with our fellow Christians the Lord of Life and of Love who comes to us in this most beautiful of all the sacraments. And it is our deepest desire and delight to be one of his true and faithful disciples.
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Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 11, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Gospel John 10:1-10

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday because on this Sunday we hear the Gospel in which Jesus teaches us about the Good Shepherd. In addition to the Good Shepherd I see two other images that can be looked at, the Lamb of God and the Good Sheep. This gives us three images in the Gospel, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God and the Good Sheep..
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Fourth Sunday of Easter: The Voice of the Lord
In the United States, most of our ranches are self contained.  By that I mean that the rancher has his own fields for crops or grazing and his own facilities to care for his livestock. 

That is not the case in the most of the rest of the world, not just the ancient world of Jesus, but even in the modern world.  In much of the world, the animals belonging to various families are kept together in a large pen.  This is particularly true regarding sheep.
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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A—May 11, 2014
Gospel (Read Jn 10:1-10)

Today’s reading is best understood within its context in John’s Gospel. In the previous chapter is the account of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind, a Lenten lectionary reading. Recall that it was a lesson about spiritual sight and blindness. The simple blind Jewish man whom Jesus healed was able to see and worship Jesus as the Messiah. The Pharisees who interrogated him, however, wanted nothing to do with Jesus: “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from”
                                                                                                                                 (Jn 9:29).
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Reflections for Sunday, May 11, 2014
They were cut to the heart. (Acts 2:37)

What a vivid image! But this is not the only place in Scripture where we see this happening. The Letter to the Hebrews says that the word of God is a “two-edged sword” that slices between “soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). On the road to Emmaus, the disciples’ hearts burned as they heard Jesus explain the Scriptures (Luke 24:32).

Peter, the man who just fifty days ago had denied knowing Jesus, was now speaking boldly about him and what he accomplished for us on the cross. Through his preaching, he presented the people with a picture of Jesus that cut many of them to the heart and brought them to conversion.
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If You Can’t Make Daily Mass, Pray Like JMJ
Our spiritual lives are centered upon Jesus’ sacrifice, made present in the Eucharist. Probably the majority of us however, have schedules that keep us from attending Mass on a daily basis. It may come as a surprise to learn that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – and the majority of Jews at the time – found themselves in an analogous situation. They also arrived at an ingenious solution that we can make our own.
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Pope’s Mass: Stay away from vanity! It’s dangerous
During his Monday morning Mass, Pope Francis talked about following God. He explained that Christians should always stay away from vanity, power and greed. That way, they won’t try to take advantage of their relationship with God.

POPE FRANCIS
“Sometimes we do things to stand out and feed our vanity. But vanity is dangerous.  It immediately makes us fall into pride, arrogance,  and eventually it all stops there.  We must ask ourselves. How can I follow Jesus? Do I do good deeds in a discreet way, or do I just like to be seen?”
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Seven Proofs for the Natural Immortality of the Human Soul
The late Dr. Antony Flew—perhaps the greatest among atheist thinkers of the last 100 years—came to faith in God largely through his studies in philosophy and, most especially, science, as he recounted in his book written with Roy Abraham Varghese, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
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‘Faith calls for sacrifice’: Oregon family descended from martyr-saint
Phu Nguyen, a University of Portland sophomore, is descended from a saint.

Phu’s great-great-great-grandfather died for abiding by his faith. The Vatican considers the torture endured by the renowned Vietnamese martyrs among the worst in the history of Christianity.

St. Matthew Nguyen Van Phuong was born in Vietnam in 1801. After his parents died, he was raised by the local priest in Quang-Binh, in the central part of the Southeast Asian nation.
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Can Anything Good Come from Temptation? Yes, Here are Five Things
One thing that is common to every human person is the reality of temptation. At times we may wonder why God permits it. Why does he allow mortal and spiritual dangers to afflict us? Could he not by word of command prevent every temptation that afflicts us? And if he can, why does he not? Is he just setting us up for a fall?
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The Power of Novenas
I’m a Catholic, and I am not going anywhere.

With some of my friends, family, and fellow travellers I have been discussing how a Catholic should respond and behave in these times.
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The Role of Inward Prayer
All prayer which deserves the name must be inward. The term inward is used here to describe a form of prayer which moves, as it were, away from the spoken word and toward silence.

As to contemplative, this term is rather too wide and general to describe a form of prayer whose main feature (or trend) is to draw away the soul from the manifoldness of mental activity and to enable it to become single-pointed. The term meditation also does not fully convey this meaning. Of the two, contemplative prayer is probably the more accurate term — so long as we bear in mind the sense in which the word contemplative is used.
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.Is Religion Relevant?
All around me I see religious leaders trying to make the faith relevant for people. Whether it’s a Protestant pastor laying on parenting classes or the local megachurch advertising drug free rehab sessions, or maybe it is a Catholic priest doing his best to provide a hip hop sermon and a groovy style, or perhaps it’s a sincere pastor who spends all her time housing the homeless and feeding the hungry, maybe it’s the community church with cool music and a hipster pastor…I see them and envy their energy and passion, but as a Catholic priest I wonder if that is what I am supposed to be doing. I doubt it.
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VIDEO: Dr. Scott Hahn on Angels and Saints
Angels and saints are very near to us in every way, united to us in relationship through Jesus Christ. They are present with us, family to us, and they are helping us become holy. In this book, Angels and Saints, Dr. Scott Hahn, draws deeply on Scripture to reveal a new understanding of the angels and saints, to celebrate them as holy members of the one Church – on earth and in heaven.
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Why the Culture of Life Will Win
“Authentic freedom has its necessary foundation in the truth about the human person: it is… in the search for Truth that we become free. When the demands of truth are ignored or repressed, the pursuit of freedom can easily become a mere pretext for license, a new form of tyranny, the first victims of which are always the weak, the defenseless, those that have no voice.” — Pope St. John Paul II
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Mercy is Love’s Second Name
With the canonization of Pope John Paul II on April 27, 2014, the world exceedingly rejoices. In God’s providence, the Holy Father’s elevation to sainthood occurs on Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast instituted by “the Great Mercy Pope” himself when he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska on Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2000.

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Heaven Is Best Left to the Imagination
There’s a rich history of movies — think The Song of Bernadette, The Bishop’s Wife or It’s a Wonderful Life — that attempt to provide a glimpse of the supernatural through ordinary people’s encounters with the Divine. In an age where many seem to believe that neither heaven nor hell actually exist, Heaven Is for Real is a most welcome entry into that category of films. We brought our entire family to see it on opening weekend.
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Facing Death as a Catholic: We Who Remain
One of my favorite scenes in Return of the King is Sam and Frodo sitting together as Mt. Doom erupts around them. When Frodo says, “I am glad you’re with me Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things,” my heartstrings are always tugged because Frodo is reaching for the soul friendship. Love ‘till death. Boundless loyalty despite suffering and sacrifice because love is sacrifice. But, what about after death?
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Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The First Commandment – False Gods, Divination, and No Graven Images
In light (or should I say darkness) of the recent news coming out of Harvard University regarding their Satanic Black Mass that is to occur on May 12, I found it fitting to discuss what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on superstition, idolatry, divination/magic, irreligion, atheism, agnosticism, and graven images.
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Why Evil and Suffering Don’t Disprove God
We believe so many lies about ourselves.  We believe we’re hopeless, that we can never change, that things will never change, that nothing we do matters, that we don’t deserve love or goodness or justice or dignity or a million other things.  We are trapped by the lies we tell ourselves and the lies that others tell us.
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Satan Isn’t Fussy, But Neither is Christ
Spokesmen for the “Satanic Temple” of New York are giving conflicting stories about whether a consecrated or an unconsecrated Host will be used in the Black Mass “recreation” hosted by Harvard’s Cultural Studies club. 

Does it make a difference? Yes, a big difference. A Black Mass is a sacrilegious parody of the Mass which profanes the Eucharist. It would be hard to overstate how dreadful this is to Catholics. Countless martyrs have died protecting a consecrated Host from injury. So if they are planning to use a consecrated Host — that is, if they are going to insult and damage the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ under the species of bread — then Catholics should be fasting and praying to make reparations.
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Hell Frozen Over
Judas is in hell. Despite the contortions of some celebrated theologians such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, it’s quite difficult to find universal salvation in the Scriptures. Even Plato noted that if the extremely wicked were not extremely punished in the next life, the world might seem founded on injustice.
  
Does it make a difference? Yes, a big difference. A Black Mass is a sacrilegious parody of the Mass which profanes the Eucharist. It would be hard to overstate how dreadful this is to Catholics. Countless martyrs have died protecting a consecrated Host from injury. So if they are planning to use a consecrated Host — that is, if they are going to insult and damage the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ under the species of bread — then Catholics should be fasting and praying to make reparations.
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Righteousness Meter: How I’m Better Than You
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” ~ Luke 18:11

Let’s be honest.  It’s so easy to look at a neighbor who’s doing things all wrong and think “I’m glad I’m not him!”  Yes, it’s human nature to be glad you’re not anybody else besides you. We tend to think we do things better than most people. We think we parent better, love better, spoil our children less, are smarter and less superficial, and the list goes on and on.
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Are the End Times Upon Us? Author Says ‘Unrestrained Immorality’ Mirrors ‘Pandemic Godlessness’ Seen in the Bible
Is mankind evolving into a more peaceful and prosperous people – or are we on a path toward ever-increasing moral depravity, social chaos and destruction?

Answering that dichotomy depends on one’s worldview, but Christian author Jeff Kinley is in the latter camp, telling TheBlaze that he sees human beings continuously and perilously cutting God out of society.
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On Punching Heretics
There was an odious man named Frank in our fundamentalist church when I was a boy who had a brood of badly behaved children. When one of them would act up, Frank would haul the miscreant out of the sanctuary and wallop him. When he would re-appear with the unfortunate sprog, Frank would mutter sanctimoniously, “Sometimes we need to administer love to our children.”

The memory brings to mind another fracas at church in an earlier time. At the Council of Nicea, Bishop Nicholas of Myra punched the heretic Arius in the face. Arius had been asked to defend his doctrine that Jesus Christ was only a created being and not God incarnate. The future Santa Claus, fed up with this nonsense, got up and administered some love. St. Nicholas is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Some work. Some wonder.
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The End of the World
For millennia men have wondered whether the world as we know it will come to an end and if so, how the world will end. In ancient Judaism speculation about the world’s end took the form of apocalypticism, the view that God will bring about the end of human history, exercising judgement upon the life of every person, and inaugurating His everlasting Kingdom. This apocalyptic viewpoint was taken up into early Christianity through its founder Jesus of Nazareth. The early Christians looked forward to the return of Christ at some unknown time in the future when he would inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth fit for eternal habitation. Here is how that event is described in the Apocalypse of John, the last book in the New Testament:
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