I want to start my homily today by taking a closer look at the Gospel of John. Jesus continues to develop the idea that he is the Shepherd. As I prayed with the scriptures this week two things stood out in the gospel – Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep (all the sheep) – the second is that he is the gate to the sheepfold – the path for life leads through him! We need to make our way into and through Jesus to eternal life.
Today, in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter, inspired by the Spirit reminds the crowds that they have sinned – they have killed an innocent man – that same man that they killed has forgiven them and is calling them to life – to be free of their sin and to taste the fullness of life. Jesus himself will show them what real life looks like.
In his letter to the early Christian community Peter reminds the Christians that if they want life they need to do as Jesus has done. Jesus has set an example – suffering for the well-being of others – forgiving others before they ask and trusting in the goodness of God.
The thrust of the readings today is that we follow Jesus. Why? Because he is goodness, he is kindness!
In my years as a priest I have heard lots of confessions – I have listened to people who have struggled with relationships – I have listened to parents and grandparents who are at odds with their children and grandchildren and vice versa. While I can sit back and say to this person or that person you should have done this or that or you should not have done this or that, what strikes me is that in the heart and mind of each person, they were doing what they were doing at that particular time because they thought it was the best thing for them. Someone on the outside could easily see that it was not a good thing to do – but they thought it was.
As Christians, as Catholics it is our desire to encourage people to follow Jesus – to get to know God – to be members of the Church! We want others to know what we know about our God. Sometimes we go about it in a way that is helpful to people and sometimes we go about it in a way that actually drives people away!
I am sure that at some point in your life you have met a Catholic/a Christian who was simply wonderful and kind and generous and you thought to your self – I would like to be like that person. I am sure that at some point in your life you have met a Catholic/a Christian who was mean spirited, hypocritical and unforgiving and you thought to yourself – I hope I am never like that.
Today, we have in Sacred Scripture, an image of Jesus who cares, who forgives, who calls to us, who leads us, who suffers for us and who offers life to people who have been less than kind. We have an image of a Shepherd who cares for all of us.
We who have gathered here are followers of Jesus. We do what Jesus does. When people encounter us do they encounter someone who loves, who forgives, who calls, who leads and who offers life? We are not perfect – we may not be there yet. We are however, growing and becoming more and more like Christ! That is a great thing folks! We are making progress and becoming more like Christ!
This week as we ponder this image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd we ask ourselves – what do I need to do so that people see me as a Good Shepherd? What changes do I need to make so that people will stop and say, “Hey, I would like to be like you!” What actions, what choices will lead us to become more like Jesus?
Do I need to seek healing? Do I need to learn more about Jesus? Do I need to pray? Do I need to practice patience/kindness/gentleness or generosity? Do I need to forgive myself? Do I need to set my wants aside and look out for the needs of others?
I don’t know what you need to do to become more like Jesus at this moment, so I cannot tell you what to do! But you know what you need to do and if you don’t stop and think about it for a bit! I know what I need to work at to become a little more like Jesus. I encourage you to pick one or two things that you can do this week so that when you encounter others – in your household, in your extended family, in your workplace or out and about, they have a positive experience, an experience that leaves them saying – wow that is a kind person.
You and I know that if someone is kind to us we tend to listen and to pay attention. We are attracted to kindness! We want to be around kind people. We do not want to be around, mean, cranky, hurtful people.
Goodness and kindness might not be enough for some people – but for most of us it is everything - it is certainly enough for Jesus! In this time of COVID-19 when there is illness, mistrust, grief, fear and frustration – let us practice goodness and kindness. As Catholics, as Christians let us be known for our kindness and generosity. When people ask us, “Why are you so kind?” Let us not be afraid to answer, “Jesus is kind. He loves me! I am trying to be like Jesus!”
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI