Homily – Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Homily – Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Today we hear in all three readings about the good shepherd and what he does for his flock. This is a constant teaching of God throughout Salvation history. From the Old Testament (as we hear in the Psalm today), to the time that Christ walked the earth (as we hear in the Gospel today), and to the present day (as we hear in the 1st and 2nd readings today) we are given shepherds to lead and guide us.
We hear clearly in the Gospel today that we have serious need of a shepherd. Christ coming to Shepherd us is for our own good. In the Gospels when he saw the people he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. He had pity on them and began to teach them. Christ recognizes that we need to be led and that we are like sheep without a shepherd. From the very beginning of creation humans have made bad choices and abused their God given freedom. Through their choices they brought death, pain and suffering into the world and still do today. We do not have the ability to tell good from bad with the clarity of God. Yet many have and still today try to set themselves up as the decision makers of what is good and bad. It is in that spirit of rebellion that death enters the world. We see clearly in the Gospel today that Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. We can only have that if we have Christ as our shepherd.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the good shepherd. He is the Shepherd that lays down his life for his flock. By doing so he gains certain rights over us. He has them naturally as God but he also paid the price we couldn’t pay for our sins. In short we owe him everything. Not some things, not most things, everything. The flock belongs to Christ and to Christ alone.
Jesus Christ did not pay the price for his flock only to leave them once again without a shepherd. In fact one of the very last things he did before he ascended into Heaven was to give the care of his flock over to Peter. Three times he asked Peter if he loved him. Three times Peter replied Yes Lord, I love you. And three time Christ commanded him to feed his sheep. The care of Christ’s flock on earth belongs to his Vicar, to the pope. Many would like to deny this but to try is to deny Christ and the scriptures themselves. Christ promised to build his church on Peter. That means any church not built on Peter is not Christ’s church but one of man made origin. Christ says in the Gospel today “I am the gate for the sheep.” He is the gatekeeper and he opens the gate for the Shepherd. And it is to Peter that he gave the keys to this gate; the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
We see clearly in the book of Acts that the other Apostles deferred to Peter. We know from 2000 years of History that the Pope has been the Universal Shepherd and leader of the Church. From Peter to John Paul II there have been 264 popes in an unending line of succession to the office that Christ established. Very soon we will have the 265th Chief Sheperd.
The authority of the Pope is a gift from God. It is Christ response to looking upon our pitiful condition. He saw that we were sheep without a shepherd. And he begins to teach them. Today he still teaches through his shepherd. He still provides shepherds after his own heart. If we rebel against the teaching authority of the Pope then we rebel against Christ himself because it was Christ who established Peter and his successors as the Shepherds of his flock. We hear clearly in the gospel today that he did so that we might have life and have it to the full. If anyone tries to enter another way than what Christ established they are a thief and robber. They try to steal what does not belong to them in most cases it is a quest for power.
To be a good Christian we must be submissive to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We can not rebel against them. We cannot reject them and still be a good Christian. We cannot disagree with them for to do so is to disagree with God and we do not have the right to do that. We must follow the teaching of Christ and that means following the one that Christ established as our shepherd. It is only by following the Shepherd that we can enter through the gate which is Christ. We cannot reject the teaching of the pope on faith and morals without rejecting Christ himself. Thou art Peter (Cephas in aramaic) and upon this Rock (Cephas) I will build my church. Christ Church was built on Peter and Peter and his successors are it’s shepherds. If we refuse to follow his voice then we are not his sheep.
The gift of a shepherd is a gift meant to bring life. If we accept the gift as Christ gave it and follow after the Shepherds he appoints for us then we can expect to arrive at the pasture he intends for us. If we follow after a different voice, even if that voice is our own opinion, we will end up at a different destination and we will not have life to the full but death, misery and pain.
Please pray for the Cardinals of our Church. They begin the conclave on Monday in which they will identify our next Chief Shepherd. Through intense prayer they will provide us with the Shepherd who teaches in the name of Christ and feeds Christ’s flock. Pray that they will be open and obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and that God will provide us with the voice we need to guide us and lead the Church. In a very short time we will have a new Pope; Christ’s vicar on earth. We thank God for the gift of the Shepherd and we pray that he may lead us well.

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