My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It’s great to be home!
As you know I was away in Rome for a week on a pilgrimage for the Year of Faith and I had the chance to meet and pray with our new Pope Francis.
I had the beautiful experience of being able to concelebrate a private Mass with our Holy Father in his chapel at Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he is living. It was special for me because, while I have had the privilege to celebrate public Masses with Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II, this was my first experience of being able to concelebrate Mass privately with the Pope.
During that Mass, as you can imagine, I was praying for the intentions of the Holy Father, but also for all of you and your families and the intentions of everyone in our Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I was especially giving thanks to God for our new pope, Pope Francis but also for all his graces and blessings in my life — including each one of you and my ministry in the Archdiocese in Los Angeles.
I also the opportunity to talk with the Holy Father at different times during those days. And he is a kind and compassionate man and he has a beautiful simplicity about him.
I told our Holy Father that all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles love him and that we are praying for him and his ministry and that he has our loyalty. He told me that he is grateful for our prayers — and he asked us for more prayers!
I also invited him to come to Los Angeles. I told him that this year we are celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Junipero Serra. And I invited him to come and celebrate with us. He just looked at me and smiled, and didn’t say anything else. I think he’s kind of busy these days. But he knows that we love him and that we are praying for him everyday.
He also sent his Apostolic Blessing to all the faithful in the Archdiocese. So today, I’m bringing to you Pope Francis’ blessing. And it kind of make sense to do it today, because as I said before, today is Good Shepherd Sunday and it is a day that we need to pray especially for our Holy Father and for the shepherds of our Church: our pope, our bishops, our priests, our deacons and seminarians.
Every year we have this opportunity on the Fourth Sunday of Easter to pray for our shepherds. Because the passage of the Gospel every year is about Jesus who is our Good Shepherd, and who has tender, merciful love for his sheep.
So let’s especially keep in our prayers, the Holy Father and the shepherds of our Church.
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 God’s call to the consecrated life. We want to pray especially that more men will answer his call to follow him in the great adventure of the priesthood. We need more holy priests.
Jesus our Good Shepherd has given us “shepherds” to guide us and lead us in his Church.
That’s why the first reading of today’s Mass is about the ministry of St. Paul and St. Barnabas. They are, as we heard, the first apostles to the Gentiles, to the non-Jewish people. They are called, as we heard, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
So St. Paul and St. Barnabas are shepherds. They are a sign for us in our mission of the new evangelization. We heard this morning about how they evangelized Antioch and how they faced protests and violence. We witnessed their courage — and also their joy.
St. Paul and St. Barnabas — even though they faced so much opposition and hardship — they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
And, my brothers and sisters, they are a beautiful example for all of us in our work to spread the good news about Jesus. We should be joyful! Even if there is rejection or persecution. We should be filled with hope — every day, in every situation of our life, especially when we are trying to be faithful to the Gospel.
Because we have Jesus our Good Shepherd to lead us! We have his shepherds in the Church. So we can be confident in our salvation. And we can be confident in the Gospel that he wants us to share and to live by.
In the passage of the Gospel today, we heard Jesus himself promising us:
My sheep hear my voice.
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life and they never perish!
What a beautiful promise. Our lives are in his hands. Our lives are in the hands of the Good Shepherd. He knows us — each one of us, personally. He knows us by name and knows our hearts. We are his people. We know that if we follow him, he will lead us to eternal life, to heaven!
So the Good Shepherd is a beautiful image of Jesus’ love for each one of us. That we belong to him. That we are his, and he’s ours. He is also showing us the way in which we are called to be his disciples, his followers.
So this Easter season, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, is a wonderful time to learn how to live with and follow the Risen Jesus.
Well, my brothers and sisters, we have to ask for the grace to allow Jesus to lead us. We have to let him lead us where he wants us to go. That’s not always the same as where we would like to go. But we need to trust him. Jesus will take good care of us.
Out challenge is to really listen to his voice. To trust him. And to allow ourselves to have him as the model of our lives — and as much as possible, and this is a wonderful responsibility that we all have, as much as possible, try to be “good shepherds” for other people.
That’s our mission. That’s the mission of the Church.
Our second reading for today’s Mass was from the Bible’s last book, the Book of Revelation. And we heard about that beautiful scene of heaven. That’s where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is leading us. This is where he wants us to lead others. What a beautiful responsibility, again.
We saw, we heard, about the great multitude in heaven — so many people they couldn’t be counted. People from every nation, race, people and tongue.
My brothers and sisters, this is the Catholic Church. The family of God. And that is what our mission in the Church is all about. To bring everyone into one family. To bring all people to Jesus. So that he can lead them. So that he can be the Good Shepherd to all of them.
So today we ask for the grace to make Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the model for our lives. And also, we’ll should ask for the grace to try to be “good shepherds” for other people — beginning with those who are closest to us, in our homes, in our families, in our places of work, in our daily life. It is a joy to be part of the family of God and it is a joyful responsibility to have this mission, to bring people closer to Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
And let us ask Mary, Our Blessed Mother and the Queen of the Apostles, to help us to always follow her Son, our Good Shepherd, and to always listen to his Voice in our lives.
1. Readings (Easter Sunday, Year C): acts 10:34, 37-43; Ps. 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Col. 3:1-4; John 20:1-9.