My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It’s so good to be home!
As you know I’ve been in Rome with my brother bishops for our “ad limina” visit to see our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.
We really had a beautiful pilgrimage. Thank you for all of your prayers. I hope you were able to read my daily reflections and see some of the pictures on my Facebook page. You can still do that if you want to, they are up on the Internet now forever!
My brother bishops and I had the great blessing to celebrate the Eucharist at the tombs of both St. Peter and St. Paul, the apostles who are the pillars of our holy Catholic Church. I prayed for all of you in a special way during those liturgies.
We also had a wonderful meeting with the Pope. We had a warm conversation. I told him personally about the diversity of our Archdiocese, and about the active participation of our priests, Religious and lay faithful in the life of the Church. I also told him about our commitment to education in the faith and to promoting vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We could all feel our Holy Father’s interest and his love for each one of you.
At the end of our meeting, our Holy Father imparted his apostolic blessing on all of the people of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I have no words to express the beauty of that moment.
So this morning, I come home and I bring our Holy Father’s blessing to all of you and your families.
It’s great to be back for this Sunday, which is Good Shepherd Sunday. As we know, on the Fourth Sunday of Easter every year we always hear the beautiful promise of Jesus who is our Good Shepherd.
So this Sunday is also a special day for praying for the “shepherds” of our Church — our Pope, our bishops, our priests, deacons and seminarians.
That’s why in our first reading for today we hear about the ministry of St. Peter, our first Pope. Because, Jesus our Good Shepherd entrusted his mission to St. Peter and the apostles and their successors — to be shepherds and guardians of the people of God.2
And in our Gospel today, Jesus is speaking personally to you and to me. He tells each one of us: “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. ... And I will lay down my life for my sheep.”
These words can sound a little strange to our modern ears. We are living in a big city and there aren’t too many shepherds around here. But in Jesus’ day, being a shepherd was a big job and it was a hard life.
Shepherds were totally devoted to their sheep. Guiding them to pastures so they could eat and drink. Protecting them from wolves and thieves. Going after lost sheep when they went astray.
That’s why Jesus uses this beautiful image of the Good Shepherd to describe how much he loves us. He is telling us that we belong to him. That we are his, and he is ours.
St. John is telling us the same thing in today’s second reading. Again he is speaking to each of us when he says: “What love the Father has bestowed on us — that we may be called the children of God. So we are!”
We are God’s sons and daughters! Each of us can approach our God with such beautiful confidence. Each of us can say to him, “My Father! I am yours and you are mine!”
What an amazing love! We should be in awe at this! We need to be grateful every day! Jesus has laid down his own life so that we can share in this beautiful love. So that we can be children of God.
To be children of God means we have a vocation. A calling to be like Jesus. It means we need to follow him.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is calling each of us by name. He is calling us to hear his voice and to follow him. He tells us today: “I must lead and they will hear my voice.”
So we need to pray for the grace to respond to his love. For the grace to be good listeners and good followers of our Good Shepherd.
We need to listen to his teachings and follow his example. We need to pay attention to his voice. He speaks to us in the pages of the sacred Scriptures and in the teachings of his shepherds, his bishops and pastors. He is speaking to us in the people we meet and in the circumstances of our daily lives.
It is a beautiful thing to follow the Good Shepherd. Because he is leading us in the way of true happiness. He is calling us to grow in holiness, to be more like him in loving God and loving our neighbor. He is leading us to join the saints in heaven by teaching us how to become saints here on earth.
By the way, we have a new blessed in our universal Church who once lived right here in Los Angeles.
So we should rejoice today with our own Poor Clare Missionary Sisters, because last week their foundress, Mother María Inés Teresa Arias, was beatified in Mexico City. Blessed María Inés Teresa came to our city as a refugee during the Cristero War.
I want to share something beautiful that she once said about our duty to follow Jesus in everything we do.
She said: “Joy in our daily Mass [and] ... in any type of work we do — in all the actions of our daily lives. While we eat and sleep, as well as when we rest. We need to be missionaries by every breath, by every beating of our hearts, minute by minute of our lives.”3
This is a beautiful prayer for us today, my brothers and sisters. Let’s try to be missionaries in everything we do. By following Jesus, our Good Shepherd. By seeking out the lost and bringing them back. By calling others to hear his voice in their lives.
Today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. So we want to pray in a special way that more men and women will hear his voice calling them to the consecrated life. We want to pray especially that more men will answer his call to share in his mission of being good shepherds, the mission of being successors in the ministry of the apostles.
And let us ask Mary, Our Blessed Mother and the Queen of the Apostles, to help us to follow her Son, our Good Shepherd, with new strength and new courage.
1. Readings (Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B): Acts 4:8-12; Ps. 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18.
2. Heb. 13:20; John 21:15-17; 1 Pet 5:2.