Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday) | April 25/26, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This homily is based on the Gospel reading, with references to the second reading.
So, when I was 6 or 7, I remember swinging in a hammock down at my grandparents’ cabin. Somehow, my foot fell through the holes in the hammock just as my friend was pushing from behind. Next thing I knew, I was crumpled on the ground clutching my leg and grimacing in pain.
Yup, I had broken my leg.
I don’t remember much else from that day, expect for one detail that has always stuck with me.
It was my dad coming down from the cabin. He bent down, scooped me up into his arms, and carried me to the car.
In those moments, I knew that I was safe. That nothing else was going to harm me. That no matter what happened in the future, it was going to ultimately be ok.
I couldn’t help but think back to that scene as I reflected on the Gospel reading for today, Good Shepherd Sunday.
Because it reminded me of all of those idyllic scenes of shepherds bending down to lift up a sheep, often a sheep who is lost, or afraid, or injured.
There is something about this image that continue to resonate with us, over 2000 years later.
It seems that we all desire for someone to come and scoop us into their arms, lifting us up from all that frighten us, all that wounds us, all that confuses us.
We want Christ to be that shepherd for us. We want Christ to be the one that reaches down and picks us up. Making us safe. Shielding us from harm. Assuring us that it will ultimately be ok.
And yet, there is a part of us that knows life isn’t that simple anymore is it.
What troubles us, what scares us, what bruises us seems too great.
We tell ourselves that we’re too old to be picked up and carried.
We know that things will harm us, no matter who tries to shield us.
We can begin to question whether or not this image means anything anymore. Is this image nothing more than a relic of our childhood, an image that no longer applies to us, like kissing away booboos or being rocked to sleep with assurances that everything will be alright?
I must admit, I’ve been there. Questioning whether or not Christ really still shepherds his sheep.
But my view of Christ as the Good Shepherd was cast in a totally different light for me a few weeks ago. I was sitting at my desk working on some paperwork when I got a call over the walkie talkie.
“Fr. Brian. we need you outside now.”
Naturally I raced outside to see one of my students crumpled on the ground. He had twisted his knee and could no longer put any pressure on it.
Without hesitation, I reached down and picked him up, carrying him back into the school building.
And it was in that moment that it all clicked for me.
Here I was looking for Christ the Good Shepherd to come falling out of the sky, while he was already here. He was present within me, helping me to lift up one of his sheep and carry him home. Just as he had been present in my father when he carried me all of those years ago.
It was as if the author of the Letter to St. John smacked me in the forehead and said . . . See, now do you know who you are?
You are a part of Christ’s body.
We are members of Christ’s body.
My friends, I am not naive. I know that the trials and tribulations that weigh each of us down are not easy burdens to bear. I know that the systemic issues that plague our nation and world from gun violence to poverty to war to earthquakes are not easily resolved.
But I also know that Christ the Good Shepherd has not abandoned his flock.
For he continues to work through each of us . . .
Every time we bend down to pick up a child who is crying or an elderly parent who can no longer get out of bed.
Every time we lift up a downcast face with words of forgiveness or a broken heart with a supportive embrace.
Every time we lift up our voices for justice, especially for those who do not possess a voice.
Every time we stretch out our arms to extend a helping hand to someone in need of our resources.
Every time we choose to stand beside those who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death without fear.
It is still Easter, my friends. Christ is still alive. He is alive in us.
Let us be his face, his arms, his hands, his voice, his love to the world.
May God be Praised.