Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Homily for the 4th Sunday in Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
April 26, 2015
Year B

In a field behind the Basilica of the Nativity of the Lord there is a poor shepherd and his flock. A priest, who I met once, knew this shepherd well. The priest, a former pilgrimage director to the Holy Land, would often visit with this shepherd on his trips to Bethlehem. As the shepherd got older and older he told the priest that he was worried about his flock and his grandson. His grandson was his helper, his apprentice – but he was lazy. One day, the old shepherd had his grandson call the sheep to him, just demonstrate his point. Naturally, they would not come to him. But when the old shepherd called, they came running toward him. They know him, they know his voice; and the shepherd, for his part, knows and loves his sheep. You see, even though sheep are the dumbest animals on earth, they still will not follow the voice of a stranger.  This was distressing to the old man… who would look after his flock when he is gone?  

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me…” These are the words of Jesus in today’s gospel. According to the prophet Ezekiel, God the Good Shepherd cares for the sheep, rescues them from places to which they have been scattered, feeds them, tends to them when they are weak, injured and lost. The image contrasted here is with a hired hand. The hired man has no concern for the sheep. His primary care is first for himself. The good shepherd, however, cares littlie for himself. His concern is for the flock. Here, Jesus identifies Himself as that shepherd who cares for His sheep. His language even alludes to His death on the cross.
In this Good Shepherd discourse Jesus teach us something about relationship – His relationship with God the Father and with us. The key is in the verb ‘to know’. Knowledge in this sense is not a cognitive category but rather a category of relationship. This type of knowledge is one of love. It is both a matter of the mind as well as the heart. That which makes Jesus the good shepherd is not simply due to His relationship to His sheep but also to the Father. In sending His Son, the Father seeks to draw the sheep to Himself in relationship – a relationship that is deeply personal and built on love. Christ, the Good Shepherd, tends to the sheep in this spirit of relationship. The Shepherd seeks out the sheep. He draws them in, to Himself. He tends to them, cares for them and loves them. Thus the Shepherd not only seeks out the sheep but He identifies with them as well.

Today as the Church celebrates “World Day of Prayer for Vocations” we are reminded, as she teaches us, that Christ is present in four specific ways in the Church. He is present in the gathered assembly, in the people. He is present in His Word, in Sacred Scripture, He is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He is also present in the person of His minister – the priest. It is through the person of the priest where this image of the Good Shepherd comes alive for us. Priests give their whole selves – they lay down their lives – for the sheep, the faithful of the Church. They identify with the faithful as being members of the same flock of Christ, yet, called to lead the sheep, to tend to them in their weaknesses and injuries, he searches for them when they are lost and most importantly, he feeds them. Good shepherds are thus meant to foster relationship with God and call us to the love of the Father.
Today, otherwise known as “Good Shepherd Sunday”, Jesus, just as He goes in search of the lost sheep, the Good Shepherd goes in search of those who will care for His flock. He searches for those who will be called shepherds – good shepherds – so needed in our Church today. He searches for the one who will not be simply a “hired hand” rather, He looks for the humble man, the gentle, the poor in spirit. He looks for one who loves. God is looking. He is looking for good shepherds to tend His flock. Who among the young men of the world today will hear His voice? He is looking for that one who in turn seeks Him. To those of you thinking of a possible vocation to the priesthood… Let the Good Shepherd find you. For the Church is need of more shepherds to tend the flock when the others are gone. In purity and in poverty, in enlightenment and in doubt, no matter the struggles, in every occurrence of life, He seeks you to be His servant, His shepherd. Will you allow Him to find you?

And as for us, those already living our vocations – whether it be priesthood or married life – what can we do to foster priestly vocations? As cliché as it sounds, pray. We can pray. Those of you connected to the internet can go to and sign up for a day to dedicate to praying and making sacrifices for priestly vocations. For we must remember, that without priests, the sacraments are not celebrated. Therefore we need priests, we need good shepherds to tend to the flock and look after the Christ’s faithful.

Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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