Easter 4 Sunday C: Good Shepherd

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In today's reading we see the power of the Risen Lord, which had transformed Peter, who preaches eloquently and takes on the establishment. Peter was speaking to the elders, the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, a powerful opposition for an uneducated fisherman, yet he and the other apostles displayed courage and greatness as they confront them head on. "If we are being questioned and asked how this man was healed, let it be known, that this man is standing in good health by the name of Jesus of Nazareth." Peter could have taken the credit for the miracle. Peter has learnt his lesson and knows that if he relies on himself he will fall, but his confidence is in the Lord, who never fails. Peter moves from the immediate fact of the healing, to the thing signified, namely the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Good Shepherds
In San Salvador on March 24, 1980, an assassin killed Archbishop Oscar Romero with a single shot to the heart while he was saying Mass. Only a few minutes before, Archbishop Romero had finished a hope-filled homily in which he urged the people to serve one another. Since Archbishop Romero was demanding human rights for his people under oppression, he knew that his life was in danger. Still he persisted in speaking out against tyranny and for freedom. He once told newspapermen that even if his enemies killed him, he would rise again among his people. Today, good shepherds who lay down their lives mean husbands and wives who can't do enough for each other to demonstrate their commitment to each other; parents who make countless sacrifices for the good of their children; teachers who spend untold hours instructing the weak students; doctors and nurses who work untiringly to show they care for their patients; employers who share profits with their workers; politicians who unselfishly promote the common good of their voters and parishioners who generously support their parish community.

Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

One of the most beautiful descriptions of God given by Jesus is contained in today's gospel reading where he proclaims: "I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." Jesus was the visible sign of God's constant care for his people. In our present day set-up the image of the shepherd may be alien to us but in Palestine the shepherd was a common figure in the countryside. The shepherd in Palestine led his flock, he did not drive them as shepherds elsewhere did. The shepherd literally lived with his flock, spent most of the day and night with them. Though there were hundreds of sheep belonging to different shepherds, the shepherd knew his own and his own sheep recognized his voice and followed him to the pastures. The good shepherd cared for the sheep to the point of death. He does not just surrender his life for his sheep, but he gives his life willingly, as He said at the last supper.

Knowing His sheep

One of the memories I have of the home of my birth was a dog we had, called Roxy. We lived on a fairly quiet road, but as the years went by, the number of cars increased. Irrespective of how many passed by, Roxy was quite indifferent. Then suddenly, the ears were at full stretch, up he sprang, and raced at full speed along the road. There was no sign of anything coming, but we all knew that my mother was on her way, driving back from town, and was probably several hundred yards away. With all the cars, this was the sound that Roxy recognized from a distance. By the time he met the car, my mother had rolled down the window on the passenger side, slowed down slightly and with the car still moving, Roxy sprang right into the front seat and accompanied her on the latter part of the journey. I'm sure most of us have known unique relationships between animals and humans.

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

A Good Shepherd

After a particularly brilliant concert, Beethoven was in the centre of congratulating friends and admirers, who praised his piano magic. One unusually enthusiastic woman exclaimed: "Oh, sir, if God had only given me the gift of genius!" "It is not genius, madam," replied Beethoven. "Nor magic. All you have to do is practice on your piano eight hours a day for forty years and you'll be as good as I am." We Christians have a leading role to play in redeeming the world, being porters of Jesus the Good Shepherd. That demands strenuous work, persistence and perseverance in doing good. Beethoven was able to perform great things because of his patience and perseverance. Any leadership implies that quality.

Anthony Kolencherry in 'Living the Word'

I know the Psalm, he knows the Shepherd

A group of men sat around debating good and bad memories. As a result of the discussion an impromptu contest began, to test their memories. One young man, with some artistic talent and training in voice production, recited Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my Shepherd.' The rendition was very very effective, and he drew thunderous applause, so he had to recite the Psalm a second and third time. The second 'contestant' was an elderly man, over in the corner. He was rather stooped, and it was difficult to hear every word as he too recited 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. When he was finished, there was total silence in the room. Something strange had happened. Unconsciously, many people felt a sense of inner stirring, and a few began to whisper a quiet prayer. The young man who had recited the Psalm first time around, stood up and explained the different reception to the two recitals of the same Psalm. "I know the Psalm" he said, "but it is obvious that the old man knows the Shepherd".

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

Believe in the God of miracles!

"Mom, I need new shoes," Nicky announced as he burst through the door after school. "Miss Bell says it's dangerous to run in the gym with my toe sticking out." I looked down at my son's blue tennies. "You're right, Nicky. It's time for some new tennies, but you'll have to wait until our next pay check...." "But, Mother," Nicky protested, "I can't wear these shoes for gym anymore. Miss Bell said!" I launched into an elaborate discourse on budgeting principles. "So you see, Nicky," I concluded, "that's how Mommy and Daddy spend money. Tennis shoes are not in the budget this time; next time they will be." "Then I'll pray about my shoes," Nicky announced. "I'll tell God I need the money by tomorrow."....When he left for school the next morning, new tennis shoes were still uppermost on his mind. "Can we buy my shoes tonight? You'll get the money today, because I prayed about it." "We'll see, Nicky," I replied as I kissed him goodbye. There wasn't time to explain just then. But the need to explain didn't come; Nicky's answer came instead. "This is long overdue... sorry for the oversight," said the note I received in the mail that afternoon. The enclosed check, payment for an article I'd written long ago and forgotten, was more than enough to pay for Nicky's new shoes. After school, Nicky's blue eyes danced. "See, Mom, I told you it would come. Now can we buy my shoes?" Today Nicky wears new blue-and-gold tennis shoes - poignant reminders of a child's simple trust and of my need to continually relearn what faith is all about.

Ruth Sentor

True Shepherd or hireling

I remember a story of an atheistic journalist who, on one occasion, was visiting a leprosarium run by a group of religious sisters. When he entered a certain ward, he noticed a sister moving from one patient to another, cheerfully attending to each one with a nurturing love that was absolutely admirable. Unable to restrain his curiosity, he walked up to the religious and said, "Sister, I wouldn't do this job even if you gave me a million dollars." The sister smiled and replied, "neither would I my friend," and with that she continued tending to her patients. The journalist was absolutely dumbfounded. There and then he rejected his atheism. To quote his very own words, "A God who can inspire a human being to such dedicated and selfless service, in such revolting circumstances and with such good cheer cannot but be true. I believe in God." Such is the radical difference between a Good Shepherd and a hireling. One does his work because he wants to, the other does it because he has to; one has his heart in it, the other does not.

James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life'

A Good Shepherd lays down his life

Saint Maximilian Kolbe is the patron of families, drug addicts, prisoners, journalists and pro-life movement, and he is known for founding the Immaculate Movement and producing the Knight of the Immaculata magazine. During World War II, Saint Maximilian housed over 3000 Polish refugees at his monastery. He was eventually imprisoned and sent to Auschwitz, where he experienced constant beatings and hard labour. St. Maximilian died in the place of a man with young children, who was chosen by the guards for the firing squad. Saint Kolbe is considered a good shepherd. He laid down his life for his sheep. Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, a good time to pray for the good shepherds as well as the bad ones; and a good time to realize that the Good Shepherd still walks with us.

John Payappally in 'The Table of the Word'

1. Called ‘Sheep’ – the dumbest animal! 

One Sunday morning, following the church service, a layman accosted the pastor and said, "Tom, this church has been insulting me for years, and I did not know it until this week." The stunned pastor replied, "What on earth do you mean?" "Well," said the layman, every Sunday morning the call to worship in this church ends with the words, 'We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.' And I have heard ministers over the years call the congregation, God's flock.' Then this past week I visited the Chicago stockyards. There I discovered that sheep are just about the dumbest animals God ever created. Why, they are so stupid that they even follow one another docilely into the slaughterhouse. Even pigs are smarter than sheep, and I would certainly be angry if my church called me a pig' every Sunday morning. So I'm not at all sure I want to come to church and be called a sheep' any longer...even God's sheep'."  

The man had a point. But whether we like it or not, that is the language of the Bible: both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. We are called "God's sheep." The favorite psalm of many people is the 23rd, and it begins by saying, "The Lord is my shepherd..." And if "the Lord is my shepherd," then I am one of the Lord's sheep. Centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah said to his people: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6) From the Bible, we have taken this pastoral imagery over into the Church. One of the symbols of the office of bishop across the centuries has been the shepherd's crook, that long staff with a hook on the end... 

2. Life can go from normal to nightmare in a nanosecond.  
Take hurricane Katrina. In two days there was no "normal" left for hundreds of thousands of Gulf coast residents. The well-housed went to homeless overnight, and people were left struggling just to find shelter, find food, and find clean water. The bare basics of life became the most all-important "finds."  

But not long after - once two days became a week - another need became pungently apparent. People needed clean clothes. Babies continued to trash their onesies, socks stank, T-shirts were as hard as T-bones.  

It was in response to the Katrina catastrophe that Tide detergent first started a program called "Loads of Hope." An eighteen-wheeler "semi" was out-fitted with thirty-two energy efficient washers and dryers. With its accompaniment of support vans, Tide's "Loads of Hope" express was able to handle up to three hundred loads of laundry each day. Katrina refugees were offered a place where their laundry could be washed, dried and folded. For free.

Who said it first - "Cleanliness is next to godliness?" If that's true, if cleanliness is next to godliness, then how many of us live in evil houses, drive ungodly cars, and shake unholy hands?

The gift of cleanliness. We don't think about cleanliness until it is gone. Your sink stops up and the dirty dishes start to accumulate until they take over the kitchen. Your washing machine dies and suddenly you have no clean underwear and the laundry room turns into a Fort Knox for funky smells. 

Or, worst of all, something in your life breaks - a relationship, a promise, a dream, a hope, a haven - and a snowballing of bad side-effects start stinking up your world more than you could have ever imagined. 

We are not clean. We are creatures. And creatures stink and sweat and stain everything we touch with sins and shortcomings...
3. Humor: Goodness and Mercy 

A couple retired to a small Arizona ranch and acquired a few sheep. At lambing time, it was necessary to bring two newborns into the house for care and bottle-feeding.

As the lambs grew, they began to follow the rancher's wife around the farm. She was telling a friend about this strange development.

"What did you name them?" the friend asked her.
"Goodness and Mercy," she replied with a sigh. 

She was referring of course to a line in everyone's favorite Psalm, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (KJV).

Our lessons for today from Scripture all refer to sheep or shepherds. It is probably the most familiar image in Scripture. God is a shepherd. We are God's sheep. Sheep were important to the agricultural lives of the ancient Hebrews. That is perhaps why sheep are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible, more than any other animal.  

King Duncan
4. He Knows Our Names 

There is an old story of a census taker who was making his rounds in the Lower East Side of New York, who interviewed an Irish woman bending over her washtub. "Lady, I am taking the census. What's your name? How many children have you?" She replied, "Well, let me see. My name is Mary. And then there's Marcia, and Duggie, and Amy, and Patrick, and..." "Never mind the names," he broke in, "just give me the numbers." She straightened up, hands on hips, and with a twinkle in her eye, said, "I'll have ye know, sir, we ain't got into numberin' them yet. We ain't run out of names!" The image of God as the Good Shepherd tells us that is the way it is with God. He knows us by name. 

Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words
 5. Sheep Know Their Shepherd 

In her book The Preaching Life, Barbara Brown Taylor tells of a conversation she had with a friend who grew up on a sheep farm in the Midwest. According to him, sheep are not dumb at all. "It is the cattle ranchers who are responsible for spreading that ugly rumor, and all because sheep do not behave like cows. Cows are herded from the rear by hooting cowboys with cracking whips, but that will not work with sheep at all. Stand behind them making loud noises and all they will do is run around behind you, because they prefer to be led. You push cows, her friend said, but you lead sheep, and they will not go anywhere that someone else does not go first-namely, their shepherd-who goes ahead of them to show them that everything is all right." 

Sheep know their shepherd and their shepherd knows them. 

He went on to say that "it never ceased to amaze him, growing up, that he could walk right through a sleeping flock without disturbing a single one of them, while a stranger could not step foot in the fold without causing pandemonium." 

Sheep & shepherds develop a language of their own.

Unknown Source
 6. The Rewards of Loving

 There once was a young woman who had a baby boy. Just after her son's baptism, a ragged old man came to her, and offered to grant her one wish on behalf of her son. Thinking only the best for her baby, the woman wished that her son would always be loved by everyone he met. The old man said, "so be it," and vanished. It turned out just as he said.

As the boy grew, everyone loved him so much that he never lacked for anything. Yet, things did not turn out as expected. As adored and admired as the young man was, he experienced a terrible emptiness within him. He could have anything he wanted, just by asking, but he had no real friends. He never knew the joy of a day's work or an achievement, richly rewarded. His neighbors took care of all his needs. The young man became cynical, jaded and selfish as none of his actions ever brought him any negative consequences.

Finally, the day came when his aged mother died. At the funeral, the same mysterious old man appeared and offered the young man one wish. The young man took him up on his offer and asked that his mother's original wish for him be changed. Rather than being loved by everyone he met, the young man asked the old wizard to give him the power to love everyone he met. And, the story goes, from that day forward he knew happiness such as no one on this earth has ever known.

Keith Wagner, The Promise of Listening

7. Called by Many Voices  

Now if I had to nominate one animal to represent the word mediocre, a sheep would easily be in the top five. Sheep are not independent. They cannot defend themselves like cattle. They are not strong, creative, brave nor will they initiate. They cannot even work up a good stampede. Normally, they just sort of meander. Also, sheep will not be driven, like cattle. They will scatter in a thousand different directions. This type of behavior did not earn the animal any respect on the open range so the ranchers assumed that the animal was dumb. However, a sheep is actually smarter than a cow.

So why does Jesus choose to use a sheep to represent his disciples? Even in ancient society, sheep and shepherds did not garner the respect and admiration of the rich and famous. They did not have a contest to see which shepherd would be the next "Israeli Idol." For us who do not live in an agrarian society, it is even harder to understand. I have never identified myself with a sheep. Popular artists write songs about soaring on the wings of eagles, not grazing with the lambs. 

Sheep have one particularly admirable quality. They will follow their shepherd wherever he leads them. They have learned to know him and trust him. They are not easily distracted by another shepherd. Move three flocks into a field, place three shepherds at three strategic points and have each of them issue a call. The sheep will sort themselves. You will not need brands to recognize which sheep belongs to which shepherd. Every animal will only follow his/her shepherd.

The people of God have been placed in a very large field that is often called the world. Many voices are calling us to come and join them. The voice of materialism wants us to deny our faith in the supernatural and believe only in the physical world. The voice of consumerism calls us to fulfill our envy by overspending on vacations, cars, clothing and a home. The voice of entertainment wants to fill our lives with media driven flashes that grab our attention, isolate us from our family and friends and then leave us with nothing but an oversized bill.

John H. Pavelko, The Voice That Calls Us to Follow
 8. Basic Instructions before Leaving Earth 

A story is going around the internet right now about a little boy who tells his father that he knows exactly what the Bible means. Of course Dad says, "Oh, yeah. What does the Bible mean." To which the little boy responds: "The Bible means Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth."

I really like that. The Bible is our basic instruction book for life and relationships. Oh, I know, you can't turn to an index and get direct advice about how to deal with your straight A student who suddenly decides they want to pierce their eyebrows or dye their hair clown orange. Or a child who has decided that the only thing they can eat is a diet of quail eggs, jicama, kiwi and tabouli. It doesn't give direct answers about what movies we should let our children see or what curfew we should set for what age. 

But it DOES speak to us of a loving caring God. It IS filled with stories of loving caring parents. It DOES show by example what loving relationships should be like. It DOES tell us the ramifications of disobedience and disrespect. And it DOES talk about grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and about giving and sacrifice.  

Billy D. Strayhorn, Sometimes They Smell Like Sheep
 9. Stability Zones 

In his book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler explains how, in this modern world of rapid change, confusion and over-choice, we all need some kind of "stability zones" - regular habits, rituals, beliefs - whatever it is that gives us a stable point of reference. It would be difficult to deny the wisdom of Toffler's observation, or to miss its application to the role of religious faith in our lives. The grace of God as revealed in Jesus, the Christ, is surely our ultimate stability zone.

Carl L. Jech, Channeling Grace
10. What Is Unique About Christianity? 

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, "Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form." Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, "what's all this rumpus about?" Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, "We're debating what's unique about Christianity." "Oh, that's easy," answered Lewis, “"It's grace."
From Father Tony Kadavil's collection:

#I: “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd:” Years ago the great actor Richard Burton was given a grand reception in his childhood parish. While replying to the complimentary speeches in the parish auditorium he asked if there was anything, they specially wanted to hear from him. After a minute’s pause his old pastor asked him if he could recite the Good Shepherd Psalm (Psalm 23), which he had taught Burton in his Sunday school. A strange look came over the actor’s face. He paused for a moment, and then said, “I will, on one condition—that after I have recited it, you, my pastor and teacher will do the same.” “I,” said the old, retired pastor, “am not an actor, but, if you wish it, I shall do so.” Impressively the actor began the Psalm. His voice and intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound, and, as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from the audience. As it died away, the old pastor rose from his wheelchair and began to recite the same Psalm. His voice was feeble and shivering and his tone was not faultless. But, when he finished, there was not a dry eye in the room. The actor rose and his voice quivered as he said, ‘”Ladies and gentlemen, I reached your eyes and ears, but my old pastor has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.” This Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus wants us to know him by experiencing him and to become good shepherds to those entrusted to our care.

#2: “Who’s running the Church, you or the Holy Spirit?”  Here is an anecdote that perfectly conveys the humble spirit of Pope St. John XXIII as a good shepherd. On the evening when he announced the opening of the Second Vatican Council — the first one since 1870 — he couldn’t sleep.  Finally, he called himself to order: “Angelo, why aren’t you sleeping?  Who’s running the Church, you or the Holy Spirit?  So sleep.” And he did. Prior to his being elected Pope, Angelo Roncalli had served as a clerical diplomat in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece; as Papal Nuncio in Paris; and as Patriarch of Venice.  All this training helped him deal with social problems in society and in the Church.  While still an Archbishop, he noted: “Wherever I go, I pay more attention to what we have in common than to what separates us.” Pope St. John XXIII began his mission by promising to be “a good shepherd.”  He brought a real revolution to the Apostolic Palace by getting rid of the three prescribed genuflections in private audiences and by his impromptu conversations with workers and gardeners on the streets of Vatican City.  He was the first Pope in history “to pay tribute to the part played by women in public life and to the growing awareness of their human dignity.” Best of all, by convening the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. John XXIII, led by the Holy Spirit, set in motion a spirit of reform that continues to our day.  In September of 2000, this son of Italian peasants was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II; he was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.

# 3: “LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” On a recent highway trip, one bumper sticker in particular grabbed my eye and caused me to consider its frank command: “LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.” In a sense, the Scripture readings for today, Good Shepherd Sunday, proffer the same challenge to believers. Christianity admits of no mediocrity; the decision of Faith which discipleship demands requires a daily deliberateness and a constantly renewed certainty. Either Jesus and his way of life are accepted and followed, or they are rejected. There is no middle path; to live otherwise is to become an obstacle in the way of others. As Christians, each of us is called to be both a leader and a follower. Ultimately, as John points out in the Gospel, our leader is Jesus, the loving shepherd who calls us away from sin and self to union with him and one another. (Sanchez Files)
#4: The young pastor was teaching the 23rd Psalm to the Sunday school children. He told them that they were sheep who needed guidance. Then the priest asked, “If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?”– obviously indicating himself. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young boy said, “Jesus. Jesus is the Shepherd.” The young priest, obviously caught by surprise, said to the boy, “Well then, who am I?” The boy frowned thoughtfully and then said, “I guess you must be a sheep dog.”
#5: A man in an Armani suit, Ferragamo shoes, the latest Polarized sunglasses and a tightly knotted power tie emerges from his shiny silver BMW, approaches a shepherd guarding his flock, and proposes a wager: “Will you give me one of your sheep, if I can tell you the exact number in this flock?” The shepherd accepts. “973,” says the man. The shepherd, astonished at the accuracy, says, “I’m a man of my word; take the sheep you have won.” The man picks a sheep and begins to walk away. “Wait,” cries the shepherd, “Let me have a chance to get even. Will you return my animal if I tell what your job is?”  “Sure,” replies the man. “You are an economist for a government think-tank,” says the shepherd.  “Amazing!” responds the man, “How did you deduce that?”  “Well,” says the shepherd, “you drove into my field uninvited. You asked me to pay you for information I already know, answered questions I haven’t asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now put down my dog; it is not a sheep!”

22- Additional anecdotes 

1) St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)’s Good Shepherd prayer: During her visit to the United Nations several years ago, Mother Theresa was approached by a diplomat who said, “I am not a Catholic, Mother.  But I want to know: how should I pray.”  The frail little nun took his burly hands in hers and spread out five of his fingers on one hand.  “When you pray,” she said, “Think about the many blessings you have received; then, at the end of the day, count out on each finger the words spoken to you by Jesus: You.. did.. this.. for.. me.”  The diplomat left holding up his hand as though it were a trophy and saying: “You did this for me.” In this simple prayer, Mother Theresa made the Resurrection seem real.  What she meant was that the love and peace of the Good Shepherd is present to us in the many moments of compassion that bless our lives:  in kind words, in the listening ear, in generous actions.  Jesus is also present in the blessings we extend to others.  The Good Shepherd of today’s Gospel guides us every day in our journey to eternal life. (

2) “Whatever happens, don’t let go.” There is a wonderful scene towards the end of the movie, Titanic.   As the ship is preparing to take its final plunge into the cold waters of the Atlantic, Jack Dawson and Rose are hanging straight onto the edge of the ship.  Jack turns to Rose and tells her: “Don’t let go. Whatever happens, don’t let go.” There is something profound in knowing that there is someone who wants us to hold on — no matter how difficult the situation. As children, we hold on to our parents for guidance and protection.  When we are adults, we hope to find a spouse or close friend who will hold us when we are hurt and carry us when we stumble.  In today’s Gospel, we hear the profound revelation from Jesus that God intends to “hold us” through every storm and every difficulty of life.  Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, offers us double protection.   He assures us that we are in his hands and nothing will ever take us from him.  He further assures us that we are also in the Father’s hands.   Nothing can ultimately hurt us.(

3)  “I have a dream:” the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. kept alive the hopes of victims of race discrimination by sharing his dreams. On August 28, 1963, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, he told the audience of nearly 250,000 those who had joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, (Wikipedia) “I have a dream . . . a dream that one day the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . that this desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” King’s dream awakened a nation and challenged its people and its legislators to face the inequities being perpetrated against some of its citizens. King’s dream offered consolation, inspired courage and strengthened the committed. Twenty centuries before King, the seer, John, similarly served his contemporaries with his visions. Like King, John shared his visions with the struggling. During the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (AD 81-96), Christians were being persecuted for their Faith. Denied the right to worship as they wished, they were judged guilty of treason for refusing to venerate Domitian as god. So condemned, they became the prey of one of the fiercest persecutions ever launched against the Church. A contemporary of John’s, Clement of Rome, described the injustices suffered by those early followers of Christ as “sudden and repeated misfortunes and calamities.” Nevertheless, the Church was not without hope. John’s vision of a glorious future in the eternal presence of God and the victorious Lamb of God (Jesus) strengthened his contemporaries in their resolve to remain firm in their Faith, undeterred in their baptismal commitment. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)’s Good Shepherd prayer: During her visit to the United Nations several years ago, Mother Theresa was approached by a diplomat who said, “I am not a Catholic, Mother.  But I want to know: how should I pray.”  The frail little nun took his burly hands in hers and spread out five of his fingers on one hand.  “When you pray,” she said, “Think about the many blessings you have received; then, at the end of the day, count out on each finger the words spoken to you by Jesus: You.. did.. this.. for.. me.”  The diplomat left holding up his hand as though it were a trophy and saying: “You did this for me.” In this simple prayer, Mother Theresa made the Resurrection seem real.  What she meant was that the love and peace of the Good Shepherd is present to us in the many moments of compassion that bless our lives:  in kind words, in the listening ear, in generous actions.  Jesus is also present in the blessings we extend to others.  The Good Shepherd of today’s Gospel guides us every day in our journey to eternal life. (Sanchez Files) (

4) A sergeant’s good shepherd’s story:  There was a sergeant in the Marines who was the senior enlisted man in his platoon. One day his outfit was ambushed and pinned down by enemy fire. The lieutenant in command was badly wounded as were many of the men. The sergeant took over and extricated the men from the trap, though he himself was wounded twice. He went back by himself to carry out the wounded commanding officer. Miraculously every man in the platoon survived, even the wounded lieutenant. Later the men said that if it were not for the incredible bravery of the sergeant, they all would have been killed. “He was like a father to us,” they said. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor but did not receive it. However, he did receive the DFC. He never wore the medal because he said the lives of his men were more important than any medal. Later when he had children of his own, he loved them devotedly.   His wife said that during the war he had learned to be tender.(

5) Jesus knows his sheep by name: There have always been people with a good memory for names: Napoleon, “who knew thousands of his soldiers by name . . .” or James A. Farley, “who claimed he knew 50,000 people by their first name . . .” or Charles Schwab, “who knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Homestead Mill . . .” or Charles W. Eliot, “who, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year . . .” or Harry Lorayne, “who used to amaze his audiences by being introduced to hundreds of people, one after another, then giving the name of any person who stood up and requested it.” But can you imagine Christ knowing all his sheep by name? That’s millions and millions of people over 2,000 years. No wonder we call him Master, Lord, Savior – watching over his flock, calling each by name!(

6) “I only know them by name.” Tony Campolo loves to tell the story of a particular census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, “Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. There’s Johnny, and Harvey, and our dog, Willie.” It was then that the census taker interrupted her aid said: “No, ma’am, that’s not necessary. I only need the humans.” “Ah,” she said. “Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey, Johnny, and Harvey, and….” But there once again, the census taker interrupted her. Slightly exasperated, he said, “No, ma’am, you don’t seem to understand. I don’t need their names; I just need the numbers.” To which the old woman replied, “But I don’t know them by numbers. I only know them by name.” In today’s Gospel Jesus the Good Shepherd says that he knows his sheep by name.(

7) “I’d like to preserve my integrity and credibility.” About 4 years ago, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan $50,000 to change his name legally to “Dallas Maverick.” When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000 and donate $100,000 to Kaplan’s favorite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching and being bombarded by e-mails from listeners who said he was crazy to turn down the money, Kaplan held firm and told Cuban no. Kaplan explained: “I’d be saying I’d do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright. I’d like to preserve my integrity and credibility.” [Skip Bayless, Chicago Tribune(1/10/01), Leadership Summer 2001)] The name “Christian” is our birthright. From the moment of our Baptism and our birth into the Kingdom of God, we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd who promises to lead us to green pastures and beside the still waters. The Voice of the Shepherd protects us. (

8) “May I see your driver’s license?” Everyone, it seems, is interested in my numbers. I go to the grocery store to buy some groceries. After the checkout woman rings up my bill, I pull out my checkbook and write out the check. She takes it from me. She looks at the information. Numbers tell her where I live. Numbers tell her how to reach me on the telephone. “Is this information correct?” she asks. “Yes, it is,” I reply. “May I see your driver’s license?” she asks. She looks at my driver’s license and writes some more numbers on my check. Finally, I am approved. The numbers are all there. I can eat for another week. One could wish it were a bit more human and personal. So the IRS knows me by my tax number. My state knows me by my driver’s license number. My bank knows me by my bank account number. My employer knows me by my social security number. On and on it goes for you, for me, for everybody. Everybody knows my numbers. I am not sure that anyone knows me! The numbers game that is played in our culture is one symptom of loneliness and alienation that surrounds us today. “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” That is a line from the song Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles. Loneliness. Isolation. Alienation. These are the realities of contemporary civilized life. “I am the Good Shepherd.” These are Jesus’ words in our reading from John’s Gospel text for this sermon. “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me …” Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus knows us personally and loves us. (

9)  His Master’s Voice: Have you ever seen the painting done in the 1930s of a dog, looking with a cocked head, at an old gramophone? The name of the painting is His Master’s Voice, and it’s a symbol of what Jesus is saying to us. “The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (

10) “Then we FLEECE them!” Two television evangelists were talking. One was explaining how he was seeking to be the ideal shepherd to his television flock. “There are three ways I seek to do that,” he said. “What three ways do you mean?” asked the other evangelist. “Well” he explained, “First, we FIND them. Every year we find new stations to carry our ministry. Then we FEED them. I give them the plain unvarnished word of God.” “But what’s the third thing?” asked the second evangelist. “Well,” he answered, “Once we’ve found them and fed them, then we FLEECE them!” Some TV evangelists have become quite proficient at fleecing their flock. I hope you understand that nothing could be farther from the example of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . .” Fleecing the flock is a long way from laying down your life for them. (

11) “But I never jumped.” A paratrooper who had recently resigned from the military was asked how many times he had jumped out of an airplane. He said, “None.” A friend of his asked, “What do you mean, ‘none,’ I thought you were a paratrooper?” He said, “I was, but I never jumped. I was pushed several times . . . but I never jumped.” The hired hand never jumps. He has to be pushed. Churches often have hired hands in them. Not our Church, of course! But other Churches are full of people who have to be pushed to do what they know they ought to do. Jesus did not have to be pushed.(

12) “I give my life for my sheep”: We applaud when a man or woman gives his or her life for another. Such instances do come along from time to time. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. May 28, 1989: “Former NFL football player Jerry Anderson,” read the newspaper account, “died Saturday after pulling two young boys out of a rain-swollen river about 40 miles southeast of Nashville. Witnesses said Anderson saw two boys, thought to be 11 or 12 years old, attempting to cross a dam spanning the river. One or both boys fell into the water. According to Officer Bill Todd, ‘Mr. Anderson jumped in the water and managed to get the little boys out, but witnesses said he went under two or three times and about the fourth time, he didn’t come back up.’” He gave his life to rescue two small boys.
Of course, you don’t have to be an American or a football player for such heroic actions. In a Middle school in the Ukrainian village of Ivanichi, a young teacher died sometime back. He absorbed the blast of a hand grenade to protect his pupils. What was a grenade doing in a middle school? According to the London Times, the teacher, a graduate of the KGB border guard college, had been delivering the military instruction that is a compulsory part of the curriculum for Soviet children. He was teaching them how to handle what should have been an unarmed grenade. When he pulled the pin a wisp of smoke showed that a live grenade had become mixed in with demonstration grenades, and he fell on the grenade, giving his life to save the children.
You don’t have to be a man to perform such heroics. Many years ago a woman carrying a baby through the hills of South Wales, England, was overtaken by a blizzard. Searchers found her later frozen to death in the snow. Amazed that she had on no outer garments, they searched further and found her baby. She had wrapped them around the child, who was still alive and well. He grew up to be David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War I. (

13) Big Brother is watching us: Ever since George Orwell’s 1984 hit the bookstores, people concerned about individual privacy and freedom have looked for signs that Big Brother is becoming a reality in our society. And it is true that more and more of our urban landscape is being observed by security cameras. But that is only one way our privacy is being invaded. There was a news report several years ago that Israeli scientists are now marketing a microchip that, implanted under the skin, will protect film stars and millionaires from kidnappers. The chip emits a signal detectable by satellite to help rescuers determine a victim’s approximate location. Originally the chip was developed to track Israeli secret-service agents abroad. The $5,000 chip doesn’t even require batteries. It runs solely on the neurophysiological energy generated within the human body. The firm which developed it, Gen-Etics, won’t reveal where the chip is inserted but said that, at that time, 43 people had had it implanted. Since this report was published there has been an explosion of interest in this technology. Farmers keep tabs on the health and safety of their cows and other livestock with such chips. But the use of such devices to monitor human beings is almost limitless. Already there is a monitoring bracelet for Alzheimer patients, so that families can use GPS systems to help find loved ones who might have wandered off. Would it be inconceivable that loving parents might want to monitor the whereabouts of their children via satellite? Why not have a chip implanted? Pet owners are already using such technology. Some cynics have suggested that some wives might want to monitor their husbands. Soon we will see signs, “Big Brother is watching.” Here’s what’s amusing to me. There are people who have no difficulty believing that one day the government will keep track of us all, but who cannot conceive that an all-knowing God can take a personal interest in each of His children, hear each of our prayers, and be responsive to each of our individual needs. (

14) Images are highly influential. They become emblazoned on the wall of our minds, and they evoke a wide range of responses. Millions of people will remember the fireman carrying the baby out of the ruins of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. World War II veterans, particularly the ones who served in the South Pacific, will always remember Mount Surabachi and the Marines who raised an American flag at its summit, as well as the image of General MacArthur returning to the Philippines. Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon in the early ’70s is frozen in many memories, too. If you were old enough to watch and understand television in l963, you probably remember young John F. Kennedy, Jr., at the casket of his father Jack. Much closer to our own time, many of us will long retain the image of students running out of Columbine High School with their hands over their heads. Some images are immensely powerful and have a tenacity that is tireless and timeless.  If there is one image associated with the Christian Faith which, more than any other, has found an enduring place within the collective life of the Christian church, it is the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. (

15)  Hannah and her Sisters: A movie by Woody Allen, titled, Hannah and Her Sisters, deals precisely with that theme. It is about Hannah and her sisters and how family life gives some sense of stability to life in a fractured world. The part played by Woody Allen in the movie is that of a man who is constantly afraid that he will get some terrible disease. He is what we call a hypochondriac. As he comes into the movie, we see him on his way to the doctor. The doctor assures him that nothing seems to be terribly wrong, though some additional tests need to be made. Woody cannot calm himself over these additional tests. He is sure they will find something terrible. “What are you afraid of,” one of his friends asks him, “cancer?” “Don’t say that,” Woody responds with a look of terror. More tests are performed. A CAT scan is prescribed for his head. He is sure they will find a brain tumor. But his fears are unfounded. The doctor announces to him that all is well. In the next scene we see Woody coming out of the hospital, kicking up his heels, and running joyfully down the street. He is celebrating. But suddenly he stops. We know instinctively why he stops. He tells us in the next scene. “All this means,” he says, “is that I am all right this time. Next time it will probably be serious.” Our lives are lived in constant danger. Woody Allen’s character overplays the danger. But the danger is there. There are all kinds of realities that imperil our lives nearly every day. Accidents might befall us. Natural disasters strike. Oppressive structures of life weigh us down. Disease stalks us and death awaits. That is the way life is. We live our lives in constant peril. Woody Allen might have exaggerated a bit, but he is right. Human life is an endangered species. Death calls a halt to every human life. “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus says. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (

16)  The Bismarck: In the beginning of World War II, the Nazis commissioned a massive battleship named the Bismarck.  It was the biggest fighting vessel the world had seen up to that time.  With the Bismarck, the Germans had the opportunity to dominate the seas.  Very soon after it was commissioned, the Bismarck sank tons of Allied shipping and allied aircraft.  Its massive armor plating resulted in the boast that the Bismarck was unsinkable.  But the Bismarck was sunk.  And it was sunk due to one lone torpedo.  A torpedo hit the Bismarck in the rudder.  As a result, the battleship zig-zagged through the sea, unable to reach harbor.  It was only a short while before the British navy was able to overtake and destroy it.  No matter how large the battleship may be, it is doomed without a rudder to direct it. Floundering on the waters of chaos without a rudder, the Bismarck is a modern-day image of a world without the direction of Jesus the Good Shepherd.  Without the Lord, the world is headed toward chaos.  But with the Lord there is guidance, direction and purpose in life. (

17) Alexander, the shepherd of soldiers.  When the emperor Alexander the Great was crossing the Makran Desert on his way to Persia, his army ran out of water.  The soldiers were dying of thirst as they advanced under the burning sun.  A couple of Alexander’s lieutenants managed to capture some water from a passing caravan. They brought some to him in a helmet.  He asked, “Is there enough for both me and my men?” “Only you, sir,” they replied.  Alexander then lifted up the helmet as the soldiers watched.  Instead of drinking, he tipped it over and poured the water on the ground. The men let up a great shout of admiration.  They knew their general would not allow them to suffer anything he was unwilling to suffer himself. (

18) “It will kill you if you move.” A soldier dying on a Korean battlefield asked for a priest. The Medic could not find one. A wounded man lying nearby heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The Medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you if you move,” he warned. But the wounded chaplain replied. “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life.” He then crawled to the dying soldier, heard his confession, gave him absolution and the two died hand in hand. (

19) Four clergymen, taking a short break from their heavy schedules, were on a park bench, chatting and enjoying an early spring day. “You know, since all of us are such good friends,” said one, “this might be a good time to discuss personal problems.” They all agreed. “Well, I would like to share with you the fact that I drink to excess,” said one. There was a gasp from the other three. Then another spoke up. “Since you were so honest, I’d like to say that my big problem is gambling. It’s terrible, I know, but I can’t quit. I’ve even been tempted to take money from the collection plate.” Another gasp was heard, and the third clergyman spoke. “I’m really troubled, brothers, because I’m growing fond of a woman in my church — a married woman.” More gasps. But the fourth remained silent. After a few minutes the others coaxed him to open up. “The fact is,” he said, “I just don’t know how to tell you about my problem.” “It’s all right, brother. Your secret is safe with us,” said the others. “Well, it’s this way,” he said. “You see, I’m an incurable gossip.” Jokes like this have shaped our views of priests as if there is no difference between the life and work of a priest and that of other Christians. Today’s Gospel tells us that priests are expected to be Good Shepherds as the picture given by Jesus. (Fr. Munacci). (

The TV is my shepherd; I shall not want.
It makes me to lie down on the sofa.
It leads me away from the Faith.
It destroys my soul.
It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake.
Even though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities,
There will be no interruption, for the TV is with me.
Its cable and remote control, they comfort me.
It prepares a commercial for me in the midst of my worldliness
And anoints my head with secular humanism and consumerism.
My covetousness runs over.
Surely ignorance and laziness shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever. (Broadcast on EWTN on March 18, 2002)

21) “I prayed and prayed, and I thought you were going to save me!” A Christian humorist once told a story about a man who had climbed onto the roof of his home to escape rising flood waters from torrential rains. He prayed to God to act quickly to save him. After a short while, a search and rescue team came and shouted for the man to jump and swim to their boat. He refused, saying that God would take care of him. Later, a helicopter pilot lowered a ladder and beckoned to him to climb up to safety. Again, he refused, affirming his reliance on God. Hours passed and, as the sky grew dark and the air cold, the man cried out his distress to God, “I prayed and prayed, and I thought you were going to save me!” After a moment of silence, the rooftop refugee heard a voice, “I sent you a team with a boat and a pilot with a helicopter. . . what more do you want?” Because aid did not come in the manner he expected, the man didn’t recognize his divine rescuer. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries appear to have had a similar experience. He was not the type of Savior they had anticipated; therefore, they did not recognize him as such, nor did they respond to his voice by following him. However, as the fourth evangelist points out in today’s Gospel, those who did hear his voice were promised the gift of eternal life. (Sanchez Files).

22) Jewish dream for a new Judas Maccabeus: An eight day festival of lights held each Chislev (December), Hanukkah memorialized the successful Maccabean revolt against the Seleucids (a Greek dynasty) in 164 B.C.E. Three years earlier, in 167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes IV had desecrated the Jerusalem temple by placing a statue and altar of Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings, Daniel’s “the abomination of desolation in the Holy Place” (Daniel 8:13). Antiochus ordered the people to worship the idol and to sacrifice swine on Zeus’s altar to worship that god. [(Josephus, The Jewish War). See www. —Encyclopaedia Romana, Notae, Miscellanea, Trivia Questions, Question #11: Which three kings of Orient old were like no man’s adversary?) After routing their oppressors and destroying their idols, the Jews, led by Judas Maccabeus built a new altar and reconsecrated the Temple. Thereafter Hanukkah became a feast which celebrated not only the restoration of the Temple and its liturgy but also the national heroes of Judah. There is little wonder that this feast also occasioned public excitement and desire for a new Judas Maccabeus to rise up from among them and lead them to victory over the Romans. Jesus, however, was a hero of another ilk. He would, indeed, lead a revolt and emerge victorious, but it would be a revolt against the forces of evil and a victory over death. Those wishing a share in his victory need only listen to Jesus’ voice and follow his lead. (