Homily – 4th Sunday of Easter and Accompanying Materials during this time of Pandemic

Dear Friends, again we are separated when we would wish to be together–we are a community in spirit as well as in body and let us pray for each other and all that may be on our hearts–of concern. Peace and love to each of you–Pastor Kathy 

P. S. And of course, if there are ways that I can be of help, individually, do let me know–krredig@hbci.com or 507-429-3616. 


Entrance Antiphon

The earth is full of the goodness of our loving God; by the Word of God the heavens were made, Alleluia!

Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving and Ever-Living God,  though we walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should we fear; for we follow in faith the call of the Good Shepherd whom you have sent for our hope and strength. Attune our minds to the sound of Jesus’ voice, lead our steps in the path he has shown, that we may know the strength of his outstretched arm and enjoy the light of your presence forever. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Brother and Friend and with the Spirit, who is with us, God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.


Readings:

  • Acts 2:14, 36-41
  • 1 Peter 2: 20-25
  • John 10: 1-10–as a response to the readings, you might want to sing the refrain–“Shepherd Me O God, Beyond my Wants, Beyond my Fears, From Death into Life.”

Homily

I begin today with a story as it serves well, I think, as a fine example of what we are each to be as Jesus’ followers:   A person stopped for the yellow light, and the person who was tailgating, furiously honked because they missed their chance to get through the intersection.  Still in mid-rant, that person heard a tap on the window. The officer ordered the person to exit the car with hands up, was ultimately taken to the station, searched, finger-printed, photographed and placed in a holding cell.  After a couple of hours, a police officer escorted the would-be criminal back to the booking desk and the arresting officer who said, “I am very sorry for the mistake, but I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, and giving the person in front of you the finger. I noticed the “What Would Jesus Do?” bumper sticker, the “Choose Life” license plate holder, “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper sticker and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.

Good to remember that people are watching!

   With this story as a backdrop; we can move into today’s main theme, which is clearly about a God who “shepherds” the beloved sheep—who, in fact, is a pastor.  This is Good Shepherd Sunday and John’s gospel lays out for us what a “good” shepherd is.  Now being that most of us have no notion of what being a physical shepherd of sheep is all about, a bit of explanation for us 21st Century Christians as to how 1st Century Christians would have heard Jesus’ words is in order.

Large sheepfolds were generally constructed outside of town and several flocks would be kept in one sheepfold.  Someone would be hired to look after the sheep.  There was one gate to enter the enclosure. Those who would be about the good—the welfare of the flock, entered through the gate. Anyone else, a thief, would sneak in another way.  When the owner of a particular flock came to retrieve their sheep, the owner would call their sheep in a distinctive way that only they would recognize, and come. Many shepherds knew their sheep as individuals and called them by name.  It is this same kind of care and attention that each of us is promised by our God and that Jesus had in mind when he said, “I came that you might have life and have it to the full.”

With that much of a prelude to today’s readings; I would like to turn to a piece of news shared this week through the National Catholic Reporter (NCR).  It seems that the president of the United States reached out to Catholic male leaders, “princes of the church,” some would say—bishops, that is, this past Saturday, via conference call.  Originally, there was to be a few key, so-called leaders talking with the president and when all was said and done, it turned out that 600 individuals were on the call!

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York was a key figure on this call and it was reported that he gushed over the president and at one point, said that the president was “a great gentleman.”

And you might wonder why a “supposed” man of the Church would so prostitute himself, with regard to the personal record of this president in any number of human issues, and the answer is simple—for the president’s so-called support on the issue of abortion.  The cardinal was also looking for monies for Catholic education, but his primary issue was abortion.

The staff writers for the NCR have spoken of the bishops thusly in regard to this call:  “They [the bishops] lack credibility in this issue of abortion—an absolute rule for women from an all-male culture that has shown itself quite adept at accommodating a level of violence against already-born children, covering it up and wishing to move beyond the facts and the wrecked lives of thousands of victims and their families.    Their own behavior over decades of covering up abuse puts the lie to the sanctimonious posturing about the absolute dignity of every person.”

Now, it would be one thing for the bishops to claim their pro-life stance, if indeed it went beyond the one issue of abortion, but this same group doesn’t seem to be able to publicly call attention to their own abuses of children and the subsequent coverup, or the abuses of this president that they are cozying up to, with regard to his abuse of immigrants and their children, people of color, the poor, or his total disregard for women except for how they may bring him pleasure! These bishops who fail to speak up against this president and his actions that are devoid of anything we would name as “Christian” simply to get his so-called support for one human life issue, ignoring the rest, is abhorrent!  These bishops and their followers are simply abdicating their morality that allows themselves to say that they are Jesus’ followers! It must be remembered and history proves it, that this president was for abortion before he discovered that it was more advantageous to him to be against it!

Now if our bishops were to show the same concern for life once these babies are here, “the Seamless Garment,”  as Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, former archbishop of Chicago spoke of all life issues, that would be an entirely different thing, but, as it is,  these bishops, headed up by Timothy Dolan, are, in the words of the NCR, “lacking credibility.”

For now, it suffices to say that the issue of “abortion” in our Church is a very polarizing one and if truth be told, no one wants to get an abortion, but are many times forced down that road, because if one wants to be “a good Catholic” what options are given, that are acceptable?  If Church fathers want to rule women’s lives, then it behooves them to give women something to prevent the need for abortions.  Facts show that where viable birth control measures are available to assist couples in spacing their children, abortion numbers go down.  Another fact to keep in mind is that 2.6 million children die each year of malnutrition—that is, 7,200 a day, or, 300 every hour of every day! Yet, we hear no bishops decrying that fact and these are fully-formed, born children.

A final point would be to say that most modern-day women resent being told by a group of so-called, celibate men who clearly have no regard for their well-being, how they are to live their lives, by legislating rules for women without any input of women’s stories or how they are affected by their black and white decisions.  And again, I know there are differing views among the hearers of this homily, but until our Church, in its hierarchy, moves to a more even and just way for us, as women and men to be Christ in our world, such a one-sided answer to a very complex problem, really has no merit.  And it further has no merit when these same men are being duplicitous in their own actions as named above.

The reading from Peter today as well as the gospel from John speak of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, one who knows his own and calls them by name—who has “put up with suffering [for us] for doing what is right” and only asks that we try and do the same.  If our stance toward our world is going to be one of “pastoring” as opposed to that of “legislating,” we will have to see our world through a lens that is often more gray as opposed to black and white.

And with that idea in mind, it would be much better if the leaders of our Church would more consistently follow their brother Joseph advocating the “Seamless Garment” approach to life issues because it hardly makes much sense to be vocal on saving babies in the womb and then ignoring them, or worse, abusing them, once they are here.

I began this homily with a story that asked us to consider if we merely “proclaim” our Christianity or actually “show it” through our actions.  Only we can determine how that will be for us.  Only we can determine if we will live, as Jesus did—trying to understand, giving a response and action that is reflective of justice, mercy and love for each other, or not.  Amen? Amen!


Prayers of the Faithful

Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”

  1. Jesus, in your risen state, be our guide to live out your loving example toward all people, especially, the least among us, we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”
  1. Jesus, Good Shepherd, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”
  1. Jesus, Good Shepherd, you who left the 99 in search of the one lost, instill in us the faith to know that you will always be there to support us in every way, especially now, we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”
  1. Jesus, Good Shepherd, grant each of us a renewed faith during this Easter Season to remain true to you, living our lives in truth, justice and love, as we learn ever more clearly, what that means during this time of pandemic, we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”
  1. Jesus, Good Shepherd, guide us to see our world as a gift to everyone—help each of us to share in all ways that we can, we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”

6. Jesus, Good Shepherd, be with the president and Congress of this great nation—be their light, we pray, to work as colleagues for the good of your people, especially now—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”

 7. Jesus, Good Shepherd, help us to see you every day in the faces of all we meet—help us to see your face in all the ordinary events of our life , we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”

  1. Jesus, Good Shepherd, you who never turned anyone away, be with our community, All Are One—continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us in this time of pandemic into new ways to be “community,” we pray—Response: “Good Shepherd, hear us.”

9. Jesus, Good Shepherd, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, especially those dying from Covid 19—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response:  “Good Shepherd, hear us.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—(pause) we pray, then response

Let Us Pray

Jesus, Good Shepherd, be the strength we need each day to be people of the resurrection—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world. Give us the strength and grace to do what we can to make our world better—especially now during this pandemic—help us to be the change we want to see—let the lessons of this time not be lost on us with regard to homelessness, and other issues that show the disparity between the rich and the poor.  Let us always remember your never-failing love for each person. Give us strength to live with the criticisms that may come due to answering your call of service for the People of God.  Help us to remember that you were many times received in like manner. We ask all of this of you, our Savior, Brother and Friend, with the Creator and your steadfast Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.


Let Us Pray  (Again, we remember, especially during this time of pandemic, that Jesus is always with us and for a time, we must be aware of his presence in a different way. Do share the “bread” with others in all ways that you can this week).

Prayer after Communion

The Good Shepherd knows each one of us and we know his voice—pray that we would each take time every day to listen for his voice in our lives, guiding us along right paths—we ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.