Today is the Second Sunday after Easter.
by Fr. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900
Gospel. John x. 11-16. At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd: and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
“I Am the Good Shepherd.” This Our Lord says of Himself. Our Lord had other titles, as Jesus, Saviour, Redeemer, Master, Advocate, King of peace, Our Reconciliation, all signifying His love for mankind. Are you, my dear young people, glad of the title of good Shepherd, which Our Lord gives Himself? Yes, the title is a beautiful one; it is full of consolation and of love. He gives Himself this title in order to gain our affection and our entire heart. How good Jesus is to us, His lambs and sheep!–What care does He not take of us? He speaks to our hearts words of eternal life, and His holy inspiration illumines our mind and makes us know His goodness. He takes us up tenderly, and brings us to delightful pastures. He nourishes our souls with His holy word, by the words of His priests; He feeds us with bread which is not of this world, the Bread of angels, His sacred body and blood. Was there ever a shepherd who gave his body and blood for food to his flock? Generally the flock is a source of revenue, support, and sustenance to the shepherd; but not so in the case of this Good Shepherd. He supports and sustains His flock.
Of course the shepherd will fight for his flock, he will use every means in his power to protect it from ravage, but the Good Shepherd gives His life for His flock. O, infinite love! What pains and suffering didst Thou not endure for Thy sheep! Just think of Jesus crucified; look at Him nailed to the cross; see that face all covered with bruises; those eyes half closed with blood; those shoulders torn by stripes; that side opened by a lance; those hands and feet pierced with nails, and that head crowned with sharp thorns. All this, all these wounds, the Good Shepherd suffered for His poor lost sheep. Then what should we do on our part? Oh, give Him at least a little recognition, gratitude, obedience, and love– if nothing more than to receive Him on the great festivals of the year. This good Shepherd will love you with all affection and give you His choicest blessings.
There are, on the contrary, many restless, ill-regulated, sickly, plague-stricken sheep who have to be thrown out of the flock, because they continually disobey Him and make Him feel the sadness of having shown kindness in vain. He would like to bring them to good pastures that they might recover from their maladies, and become useful members of the flock again, but they will not listen to His voice. He calls them to the use of the sacraments, but it is in vain; He calls them about Him to be His escort and companions, but they would rather be far away from Him; they want to feed their souls on poisonous food; they do not like the restraint of being near the holy Jesus. They have left the fountains of living water which ran to eternal life. They have looked for water and found filthy broken cisterns.
Among you, my dear youthful friends, there are many wayward sheep also. This Good Shepherd seeks to bring them back to the fold, but many are obstinate, blind, and wicked, and will not hear His voice. He invites them with sweet and coaxing words; He makes them feel the qualms of conscience; He embitters the cup of vice from which they are drinking and takes peace and happiness away from them. But these wicked sheep will not listen and continually say by their works, “No, I will have nothing to do with you.” What more should this Good Shepherd do to gain them and to bring them back to His flock? Can you suggest something? Is it possible that God will not succeed in attracting them to Him? Will He not succeed when He promises them the kingdom of paradise? He must and will get angry some time; He will abandon them and deny them the help of His grace, and then they will fall from one sin to another. How many young people, my dear friends, are in such a state. In early youth they become vessels of wrath, and if God still tolerates them, the day of vengeance will come, the day on which God will separate the bad from the good. And to the bad He will say, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
Now, there is still time to change your way of living; you can become the well-loved lambs and sheep of the flock of Christ, instead of being the despised rams that the Shepherd does not tolerate near Him. Go to Him and show your sorrow, and He will take you on His shoulders, for He is waiting and looking for you. He is watching you in your wanderings, and at the first sign of repentance, of weakness, or of fainting, He hastens to your side, He raises you on His shoulders, and carries you back to the fold which you would not have been able to reach with your wasted strength.
My young friends, we are all sheep of the flock of Christ; we are His by redemption and by the grace of almighty God. Be always obedient to Him, hear His voice, and walk continually in His footsteps. Would you walk securely in the midst of this world, so full of danger and snares? The only means is to allow yourselves to be guided by God. If you would please the divine Shepherd, imitate Him in His divine virtues, in His kindness and obedience, like good sheep who are willing to be led. The divine Shepherd having loved His flock on this earth, will call them all to the enjoyment of heavenly pastures and will quench their thirst “At the torrents of joy” which He provides for us in heaven. (2)
by Leonard Goffine, 1871
Because of the joyous resurrection of Christ, and the graces flowing to us on account of it, the Church sings at the Introit of Mass: The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, Alleluia, by the word of the Lord the heavens were established, Alleluia, Alleluia. Rejoice in the Lord O ye just: praise becometh the upright. (Ps. xxxii.) Glory, &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, who, by the humiliation of Thy Son, hast raised up the fallen world: grant to Thy people perpetual joy: that They whom thou hast delivered from the danger of everlasting death, may arrive at eternal happiness. Through, &c.
EPISTLE. (i. Peter ii. 21 – 25) Dearly Beloved: Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, did not revile: when He suffered, he threatened not: but delivered Himself to him that judged Him unjustly: who His own self bore our sins in His body upon the tree: that we being dead to sins, should live to justice: by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray: but you are now converted to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.
EXPLANATION St. Paul teaches the Christians patience in misery and afflictions, even in unjust persecution, and for this purpose places before them the example of Christ who though most innocent, suffered most terribly and so patiently. Are we true sheep of the good shepherd if at the smallest cross, at every word, we become so angry and impatient?
ASPIRATION. O Lord Jesus! grant me the grace to follow Thee, my good Shepherd, and not to complain and make threats whenever I am reprimanded, reviled, or for justice’s sake am persecuted.
GOSPEL. (John x. 11 – 16.) At That Time: Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep, and flieth, and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling; and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd: and I know mine, and mine know me, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
In what way has Christ proved Himself a good shepherd?
In this that He sacrificed His life for those who did not yet love Him, and could not reward Him, even for His enemies (John iv. 30.; Rom. v. 8.), and has besides given Himself to them for their food.
How are we to know if we are among the sheep of Christ, that is, His chosen ones?
By this, if we willingly listen to the voice of the shepherd in sermons and instructions, in spiritual books and conversations, are obedient to it, and especially give ear and follow the rules of the Church through which the good Shepherd speaks to us (Luke x. 16.), “for he,” says St. Augustine, “who has not the Church for his mother, will not have God for his father;” if we gladly receive the food of the good Shepherd, that is, His sacredbody and blood in holy Communion; if we are patient and meek as a lamb, freely forgiving our enemies; if we love all men from our heart, do only good to them, and seek to bring them to Jesus.
Who are the other sheep of Christ?
The gentiles who were not of the fold of Israel, whom Christ sought to bring by His disciples, and now by their successors, into His fold.–Among these sheep we also, through our ancestors, belonged. O how grateful we should be to God, that He has brought us into the fold of His Church, and how diligently we should conduct ourselves as good sheep!
When will there be but one fold and one shepherd?
When by the Church’s prayers and by her missionaries all nations shall be converted to the only saving Church, constituting then one Church under one head. Let us pray that this may soon come to pass.
PRAYER O Lord Jesus! Thou good Shepherd who on the cross didst give Thy life for Thy sheep, grant us, we beseech Thee, by Thy death, the grace to bear upon ourselves all the signs of Thy lambs, that we may be one day numbered among Thy chosen ones in heaven.
DOCTRINE OF HOPE
I give my life for my sheep. (John x. 15.)
What has Christ won for us by His death?
The remission of our sins, the grace to lead a god-pleasing life, and eternal happiness, for which we now firmly hope, with secure confidence may now expect, and most assuredly will obtain, if we do not ourselves let it go.
In what does eternal happiness consist?
In the clear vision of God, which includes the most perfect love of Him, by which those who are saved, become, as it were, one with Him, possessing in this union everything that they could possibly desire.
What are the necessary means of obtaining eternal happiness?
The grace of God, that is, His continual assistance; the practice of the three divine virtues: faith, hope, and love; the keeping of God’s commandments; the frequent use of the holy Sacraments, and constant prayer. These means must be diligently employed, for “God who,” as St. Augustine says, “created us without us, will not save us without us,” that is, without our cooperation.
What may especially enable us to hope for eternal happiness?
The infinite mercy and goodness of God, who from all eternity has loved us more than an earthly mother, and because of this love did not even spare His only begotten Son, but gave Him up, for our sake, to the bitterest death. Will He then deny us heaven, who in giving us His Son, has given us more than heaven itself?
The fidelity of God: He has so often promised us eternal happiness, and in so many texts of Scripture so clearly explained, that He wishes us to be saved, that He must keep His promise, for He is eternal truth and cannot possible lie or deceive. (Hebr. vi. 18.) He says not yes today, and no tomorrow, there is no change in Him, nor shadow of alteration. (James i. 17.) The omnipotence of God, who can do “all that He pleases, whom no one can oppose or prevent from doing what He will; if now we have confidence in a rich and honest man who assures us, he will assist us in need, how much more should we hope in the best, most faithful, and all powerful God!
When should we make acts of hope?
As soon as we come to the use of reason and are sufficiently instructed concerning this virtue and its motives; in time of trouble or of severe temptation against this virtue; when receiving the holy Sacraments; every day in the morning or evening, and especially at the hour of death. The same things are to be observed in making acts of faith and of love. (1)
Image: Good Shepherd, artist: Bernhard Plockhorst (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff