Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


4th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Joseph Palermo
May 11th, 2014
Year A

I’m friends with a married couple who has a 3-month old baby boy.  The husband is in awe of the way that his wife can hear their little boy crying in the middle of the night, even though the baby sleeps in a room down the hall from their bedroom.  The man will be in a deep sleep but will wake up when his wife starts to get out of the bed.  “Why are you getting up?  It’s the middle of the night,” he’ll ask.  “Because the baby’s crying,” she’ll respond.  And he’ll say, “I don’t hear the baby crying.  I don’t hear anything.  Okay, now I do hear the baby crying.  Okay, now I hear him screaming!”  The husband told me, “My wife really knows our baby’s voice.  It’s uncanny.  She can hear him in her sleep.  God must give moms a special gift of hearing to take care of their children.”

Today, as we begin the Fourth Week of the Easter Season, the Church celebrates “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  It is so named because, in the Scriptures, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd (and to a Sheep Gate) and he compares all of us to sheep.   Sometimes the Scriptures say God is like a mother protecting her children, but Jesus also used the analogy of a shepherd and sheep from the farming culture of ancient Palestine to explain God’s relationship with us.  So let us reflect about this analogy.

There is a great intimacy between a shepherd and his sheep.  Sheep are defenseless animals.  They have no claws or sharp teeth and they can’t move about with any degree of speed, making them extremely vulnerable to predators.  Quite simply, sheep cannot survive on an open range without a shepherd.  They need a shepherd to pasture them and to keep them safe from hungry wolves.  A shepherd must live with his sheep so they get to know him, trust him and recognize his voice when he sounds the alarm in time of danger.

When Jesus says “The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd and follow him because they recognize his voice,” he is saying, by analogy, that all who wish to follow him must be able to recognize his voice like wise sheep hear and respond to the voice of their shepherd.  Of course, to hear and follow the voice of Jesus requires the ability to distinguish Jesus’ voice from many other voices that compete for our attention. 

We hear the voice of Jesus interiorly through our conscience, which is the voice of God within us.  We hear the voice of Jesus exteriorly through God’s Commandments in Sacred Scripture and through Church teaching and tradition.  The voice of Jesus tells us that the ultimate goal of earthly life is eternal life with God – we were created for everlasting union with the Blessed Trinity; we are on a mission to get to heaven, not a quest to experience every pleasure that life has to offer.  The voice of Jesus tells us that we are to love God above all else and that we are to love and serve our neighbor as ourselves.  We are to have a special care and concern for the poor and helpless, to refuse to make idols of money and material things, to respect every human life as sacred, to revere marriage and family and sexuality the way God intends, and to forgive all who wrong or harm us. 

In contrast to the voice of Jesus, the voices of the modern culture present a very different picture of the meaning and values of life.  Go to the movies or flip on the television or browse the Internet and you will see an endless parade of the seven deadly sins being exalted as the ticket to a happy and fulfilling life:  pride, anger, envy, lust, greed, gluttony and sloth.  The cultural voices tell us, “Enjoy life.  Live every day to the fullest.  Do your own thing.  Celebrate your own truth.  Be your own god.”  That is not the message of Jesus, who submitted his will to the Father and sacrificed his life on the cross.  But because we hear these contrary cultural voices so incessantly, we can become confused and misled by them.

The voice of Jesus is the true voice of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus does not promise a life of luxury or self-centered pleasure or living our own truth.  He calls for a life of service and sacrificial love, like that of a mom who gets up in the middle of the night to take care of her crying baby.  Jesus teaches that this kind of selfless love is the only love that satisfies our genuine hunger and thirst.  He says that, if we listen to him and live selflessly, he will keep us safe from the wolves.   He will lead us to true happiness, fulfillment and peace, for as he said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”

A great blessing of coming to Church each week is that we get to hear Jesus speak to us in the Scriptures and we are blessed to receive him in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.  We hear the words of everlasting life and we receive the God of everlasting life and so we come to know and recognize the true voice of the Good Shepherd. 

Every year on “Good Shepherd Sunday,” besides reminding us that Jesus is our true shepherd and that we are called to be wise sheep, the Catholic Church worldwide prays for religious vocations:  that more men and women might become priests, sisters and brothers – helpers of Jesus who teach and proclaim God’s truth and serve the poor and needy of the world.  Today we ask the Lord to inspire more people, young and old, to offer themselves generously in a life of sacrificial service in the church.

So let us pray.  Lord Jesus, help us soak in the teachings and truths of our faith so that we may recognize and follow your voice, reject the voices of the false shepherds of our culture, and avoid being scattered by the wolves.  We ask you in a special way today to call forth holy vocations to priesthood and religious life to assist the Church in the task of shepherding the faithful.  And finally, as our nation celebrates Mother’s Day, we ask you to bless and strengthen our mothers as they love us and provide for us like a shepherd watching over his sheep.  Good Shepherd Jesus, shepherd us.








Fr. Joseph Palermo is a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Louisiana.
He serves serves as spiritual director at Notre Dame Seminary and spiritual advisor for the St. Thomas More Catholic Lawyers Association.


See other homilies of Fr. Joseph Palermo...
Return to multimedia home...


SCTJM logo
Return to main page