Angels cheer when the lost sheep come home.
Today we hear the beautiful Gospel of the Good Shepherd who does not flee from the wolves but is prepared to lay down his life for the sheep. Many, if not most, of us who read this see it as a call to be like the Good Shepherd, to stand fast in the face of evil and protect those around us. That is, perhaps, one of the many things Jesus wants to take from this parable, but I believe that we are missing the rather obvious point if that’s what we take away from today’s Gospel. That so-obvious-we-often-miss-it point? We are the sheep. Christ says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Israel was the original flock, and we are the sheep that belonged to another fold. Christ came to add us to his flock. We are the sheep who will hear his voice and unite as one flock with one shepherd. Well… We are the sheep, unless we have chosen to follow Satan and become one of the wolves.
Jesus Christ is the one and only Good Shepherd. If we follow anyone else, we are not in safe hands. We must follow the voice of the one who conquered death. We hear in the Easter Sequence “Death with life contended: // combat strangely ended! // Life’s own Champion, slain, // yet lives to reign. […] Christ is truly risen // from the dead we know. // Victorious King, Thy mercy show!” (Victimae paschali laudes, ICEL trans.)
The battle of the Good Shepherd against the wolves is already won. The real question is not, “Am I like the Good Shepherd?” but, “Do I follow his voice when I hear it? Do I allow him to protect me?” St. Peter tells us that “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12) If we follow Christ’s voice, we will be saved, but if we instead follow the voices of this world, the voices of power, money, carnal pleasure, gender ideology, politics, or whatever else is floating around, then we will not be saved. We will become one of the wolves who scatter and capture, dragging others down to hell with us.
God has bestowed his love upon humanity and invited us to become his children. When we were baptized, we were given that title: Child of God. We don’t entirely grasp how glorious this is because we don’t grasp the glory of God. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We were adopted as his sons and daughters at our Baptism. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, came to this earth to call us to himself so that he might save us from the wolves of sin and death. We have been invited to join God in an eternal life of joy after we pass from this earth. This is the destiny to which every one of us are called.
Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said, “Our first interest is in our own destiny, and it that is not there, there is no way we can be interested in anything beyond that. To say that, the accusation, the fear will immediately grow in us that I am being selfish. I should first take care of the needs of other people; I should care first more about other people, and then about me. But you cannot care about anyone else unless you care about yourself. […] Christ presents himself as our Redeemer because he rescues, strengthens, safeguards this interest in our destiny.” (Albacete, Culture at the Crossroads (online PDF), pg. 63)
Let us look to the glorious destiny to which we have been called. We are the beloved children of God. We are the sheep protected by the Good Shepherd. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
April 25, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
I don’t know about you, but I am always forgetting things. Sometimes it’s not a big deal, but sometimes it is.
Homily for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C. Given the weekend of September 15, 2019.
Full text homily: https://mattsiegman.com/2019/09/remember/
This homily was given on Sunday, September 15, 2019. My apologies for the late posting.
I don’t know about you, but I am always forgetting things. Why is it so hard to remember simple things? Sometimes it’s not a big deal, but sometimes it is. There were several years where I was convinced my mom’s birthday was a day later than it actually was. I still would get it mixed up if I hadn’t saved it on my phone! Yet, there are some memories we hold on to for ages. Sometimes, this is good. Remembering how excited I was when I got the letter from the bishop calling me to be ordained a priest, for example, is a great memory. I also hold on to other things, though: mistakes I’ve made, regrets I have, things people have done to me. It seems like I remember my failures and the failures of those around me much better than I remember my successes and the love and care of other people. It can be easy to be cynical in this situation. It gets even worse when I think of God, and recognize that I regularly forget all the amazing gifts he has given me: life, intelligence, his Love, conquering death on the Cross for me. On top of that, I like to blame my failures on him sometimes, so not only do I forget God’s love, but I have this convoluted idea of him in my head. I think of God, sometimes, as some great torturer, who delights in punishing me, instead of thinking of Him as he truly is: the one who loves me most in the universe.
We must all work to remember.
Our readings today remind us of this. In Exodus, Moses asks God to remember his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his promise to give them descendants as numerous as the stars, a perpetual heritage. This is, of course, ridiculous. God always remembers. It is us who must remember God’s promise to bring us back to himself. St. Paul today, in his letter to Timothy, recounts where he came from. He started out as a persecutor of the Christians, but look at him now: an apostle of Jesus Christ! This is the way we should remember our past mistakes: as evidence of how much we have been forgiven and loved by God.
Then, of course, we have the Gospel. All three parables are about forgiveness and God bringing us back to himself after we wander off through our sins, but they are also about remembering. That poor lost sheep forgot the joy of being in the flock of the Good Shepherd, but the Good Shepherd remembered and brought that little sheep back. The woman lost a coin of inestimable value to her, and would not stop until she found it and had it back in her presences. The young son forgot that his true joy was not in money or pleasures of the flesh, but instead in his inherent dignity as a son of such a great and loving a father. The elder son similarly forgot his true joy: that he lived in the presence of that same father, sharing in his glory every day.
In case you haven’t already jumped ahead of me: we are all that lost sheep, that lost coin, the younger son, and at times the older son. We wander off from Jesus Christ our Shepherd when we sin. When we are lost, forgetting the image of God that has been stamped on our hearts and souls, our master seeks us out like women searching for her lost coin. When we mistake temporary pleasure for permanent happiness, God never stops watching for us to come home, so he can clean our wounds from sin and cloth us in the robes of his beloved sons and daughters. We must remember. We must remember God created everything for us. We must remember the life God breaths into us. We must remember God’s love for us. We must remember that God never stops searching for us, even when we turn away from him and run. We must remember that God will always be there for us, every moment of our lives. We must remember that our dignity stems from the fact that we are his children, and nothing else. Remembering all of these things, we come to an incredible realization: God wishes to work through us. He gives us all of the gifts we receive—his love, his mercy, his Sacraments—so that we may be empowered. He has empowered us to live Christian lives, to be lights to all the world, to be those instruments of his love and mercy to others. Brothers and sisters, remember, and be empowered.
September 15, 2019
24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32
Today Jesus gives us one of the most beautiful images in all of the Gospels: Jesus the Good Shepherd. His sheep know his voice, and they follow his voice. He protects his sheep from the robbers and thieves who come to destroy them. I know that I like to picture myself as one of Jesus’s sheep, following him to the green pastures of Heaven.
When a baby is born, that baby knows the voices of his or her parents, maybe grandparents, possibly a few other people. The baby knows that these voices are safe, because the baby has heard those voices before. New voices confuse or even frighten the baby. As the baby grows from youthhood to adulthood, the child starts deciding which voices to listen to and which voices to ignore. Instead of listening to his parents, he listens to Hugh Hefner and decides to objectify women. Instead of listening to her grandmother, she listens to advertisements that tell her ‘everyone is doing it.’ Instead of listening to Jesus’s message transmitted through the church, we think that consumerism and materialism will bring us total happiness.
With this in mind, I have to ask myself: am I really one of Jesus’s sheep who recognizes his voice? When Jesus calls us, do we listen to him, or do we listen to someone else? Am I listening to the voices of the world instead, and following them? If I am following Jesus, I can enter into the gates of Heaven, but if I am following a robber, I will only enter the gates of sin, death and hell. We have to realize that if we listen to the world and the devil for too long, it will be very, very difficult to hear Jesus’s voice over all the noise.
In both the first reading and second reading today, Peter is instructing the faithful in how to live a life where we follow Jesus instead of the world. We find the first few steps in the first reading. In the first homily recorded, Peter tells those gathered—and us today—to save ourselves from “this corrupt generation” by repentance and baptism. Through this gift, we receive the Holy Spirit who aids us in living a good, Christian life. After preaching the Good News of Christ’s fulfillment of the Scriptures, Passion and Resurrection, Peter called the people to action, and they acted. Over 3000 people were baptized that very day.
The second reading is from Peter’s first letter. In it, he holds up Christ as an example for how to live a holy life. We must suffer patiently, offering our suffering to God. We must live the beatitudes, not returning insult for insult, judging justly, and living righteously. Then Peter tells writes two of the most profound lines in the New Testament, “By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
Christ saved us, and wants us to live with him forever in complete happiness, but we must listen for his voice in order to do this. Sometimes he will ask us to live in a way that is difficult, that we might not think is very good, but if we listen to Jesus, and follow him, we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When things are difficult, we can always remember that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, “walks ahead of [us], and [we] follow him.” No matter where Jesus asks us to go, he has already been there, and that is a great comfort.
Like a baby who trusts the voice of his or her mother and father, let us trust the voice of Jesus, because it is those who are childlike to whom Jesus promised his kingdom.
Un resumen en español
Como los bebes escuchan a sus padres, tenemos que escuchar para la voz de Jesús. San Pedro nos dijo unas instrucciones para vivir en Cristo. Necesitamos seguir los mandamientos y vivir las bienaventuranzas. Cuando vivir la vida cristiana, podemos escuchar la voz de Cristo.
Today’s Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10