My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Traditionally, this fourth Sunday of Easter is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” because each year the Church presents us with our Lord’s beautiful description of himself as a shepherd who has tender, merciful love for his sheep.
For many years now, the Church has also designated this Sunday as World Day of Prayer for Vocations. So we pray today in a special way in this Holy Mass that God will call many more men to the great adventure of being shepherds for his flock.
The image of the Good Shepherd is rooted deep in the Old Testament.
In the prophets and psalms, God is the Shepherd; the people of Israel are his flock. Israel’s priests were also shepherds — entrusted by God with feeding his people and guiding them in the ways of holiness and service.
In our readings today, we see how these images are fulfilled in Jesus Christ and his Church.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd the prophets promised, sent to God’s people who were left like sheep without a shepherd.2 Christ is the gate, the door that leads into the Church, which is the fold of the sheep, the flock of God.
We understand by this image from the Old Testament why the Church has always considered the Holy Father, the Pope, the bishops, and the priests to be shepherds. They are entrusted with leading, feeding, and healing the flock of God in the name of Christ, the Chief Shepherd.3
In our responsorial psalm today, we have a beautiful image of work of these shepherds in the Church’s sacramental ministry.
Through his ordained shepherds, the Good Shepherd calls us by his Word to the green pastures of his Church, and the restful waters of Baptism. He anoints our heads with the oil of Confirmation. He prepares his Eucharistic table for us and sets before us the overflowing cup of the Eucharist.
These good shepherds, our priests, are helping us to be the flock of God. To open the gates of the Church and heaven in the name of Christ, the Good Shepherd — for each one of us.
But the Good Shepherd is also a beautiful image of Jesus’ love for us, my brothers and sisters. By this image he tells us of his mercy and tenderness in our lives. He also tells us the way in which we must be his disciples.
The Good Shepherd calls us to live by imitating his example of self-denial and self- giving.
As he laid his life down for his sheep, every day we have to try to do a little more to eliminate the bad habits in our lives. And we must make sure, every single day, that we fill our lives with good deeds.4 Every day we have to work with his grace and try to live a little more accordingly to the example of the Good Shepherd.
From Christ our Good Shepherd we should learn patience in our afflictions. We should learn to hand ourselves over to God’s will for our lives. From him we should learn to give ourselves to God and to others in deeds of service, with a faith that works in love.5
I imagine that for most of us it is not easy anymore to understand what a Good Shepherd is doing for his sheep. Because we live in a big city and there are no sheep walking around the city of Los Angeles, physically speaking.
I had the grace the other day to the blessing of animals on Holy Saturday, down here at La Placita. And it was interesting to see all those beautiful animals , it was interesting to see their masters, their owner s coming to receive a blessing.
Really, when we think of the Good Shepherd, it is somebody who is really interested in taking care of the sheep. It is not a matter of power. It does not give time for relaxing. It is day and night, caring for and loving the sheep. That is what we are called to do. And that’s the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
So today we ask for the grace to make Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the model for our lives. And also, we 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 and in our families.
And probably the best way to do that is to be always attentive to the voice of the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.
So maybe a good resolution for today’s liturgy is to try to spend more time listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Maybe through the prayerful reading of sacred Scripture. Maybe finding the time to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Maybe just coming to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel here in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Or wherever we are — at home, or walking down the street — just stopping and thinking, What is it that God wants from me?
And finally, one thing that we should never forget is that the Lord is our Shepherd and the Guardian of our souls — there is nothing we shall want or fear.
So we can follow Jesus Christ with great confidence, because he is with us always, until the end of the age.6 He is there to comfort us, and to protect us from evil.
We know that our Lord Jesus Christ has passed through the valley of the shadow of death. So what is there for us to fear? Nothing! He has conquered death itself by the power of his love!
In his mercy and love, as the Good Shepherd, we know that he will lead us also through that dark night of death — into the light of the love that never ends.
He has come to give us life and life in abundance.
So let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother, for her intercession. Let us ask her to help us to always listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Let us ask her to help us to follow him on the path he sets before us, that we might also be good shepherds for our brothers and sisters.
Let us walk in confidence, knowing that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares personally for each one of us.
1. Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36–41; Ps. 23:1–6; 1 Pet. 2:20–25; John 10:1–10.
2. Mark 6:34; Num. 27:16–17.
3. 1 Pet. 5:2, 4; Heb. 13:20; Rev. 7:17.
4. John 10:11.
5. Gal. 5:6.
6. Matt. 28:20.