4th Sunday of Easter | May 7, 2017
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
PROTIP: You can take a look at the readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
So I remember during the homily at my ordination the bishop reminded everyone gathered in that church that when we were baptized, we were called to shepherd Christ’s flock. Every man, woman and child was invited to share in Christ’s work as priest, prophet and king.
We were all called to follow the Good Shepherd. We were all called to be Christ no matter what our state in life. And for the four of us being ordained, we would now need to learn how to emulate the shepherd as a priest.
And yet, I have to admit. I don’t know if I quite got it at first.
Because let’s be real, how many of us have actually met a shepherd?
And how many people do we know actually spend a lot of time with sheep?
And to make matters worse, the one image of shepherds I did have from the Gospels involve the shepherd picking up a sheep and putting it on their shoulders.
Look at me friends. I was not built to be a shepherd. I’m pretty sure I would be crushed if I tried to put an actual sheep on my shoulders.
So can you blame me when I say, I don’t know if this image always made a lot of sense to me.
But then, my second year working at Nativity, I was sitting in my office when I heard a frantic call over the walkie-talkie. CJ is injured come quick.
I don’t think I’ve moved that fast in my life. I flew out the doors, vaulted across the parking lot and reached the kid.
He couldn’t put any weight on his foot. So I picked him up.
Now, I’ll be frank, it took every ounce of my very limited physical strength to accomplish said feat. And as I reflect back on that moment, I realize that my entire concentration was fixated on this kid. Bringing him to where he would be safe. Getting him back on his feet. And then sending him on his way.
And then I thought back to that image of a shepherd.
And I began to understand it in a whole new light.
For I may not understand sheep. But I have a little insight into people.
And I have come to appreciate how important it is when a person chooses to carry another.
When a mother cradles her infant in her arms or a father swings his daughter in circles in the air.
When a firefighter carries a disoriented and frightened person out of danger or a soldier slings her comrade on her back and drags him out of harm’s way.
When a friend collapses in one’s arms in grief or a spouse gently lifts their beloved into bed after surgery.
For in each of those moments, we see the essence of what it means to be human.
For there are times when we are all the sheep that must be carried.
Those times when we are completely vulnerable.
When all of our defense are stripped away.
We are lost or scared. In pain or helpless.
And another comes to us and carries us through those dark valleys. Another who reveals to us the face of God. The God who stops everything and stoops down to lift us. Who directs His entire attention to guiding us over the bumpy road that we have been wandering down.
With the intention of one day setting us down. So that we can walk on our own and continue to follow the voice of the Shepherd who calls us each by name.
And then there are times my friends when we are called to be the shepherd. When we are called to be Christ to another.
When we too must reach out our arms and hearts to carry our sister or brother who has strayed far from the path. Who has missed the gate or has gotten stuck on the outside. Who is cowering in fear in the valley or has simply stopped walking in grief or despair that appears too large to bear.
Do we see the sheep that Christ is asking us to shepherd?
Do we see the classmate being bullied? Do we notice the social media posts that shame our colleague? Do we push back against the gossip that lashes against the acquaintance who doesn’t fit the mold?
Do we hear the cries of our son over the girlfriend who dumped him or the father who left him?
Do we suffer with the one whose voice is stifled and silenced? The mother who cradles a murdered child. The immigrant living in the shadows. The stranger with his cardboard sign standing outside our window. The widow left alone in a home far from family and friends.
Do we dare to bear the load?
Knowing that it will take all of our strength, all of our concentration. Knowing that we may be tasked with carrying them for a LONG time.
Knowing that it will take our time and our energy of which we often have previous little of either.
Knowing that it will prevent us from following our own path and instead following the path that the Shepherd has prepared for us.
Knowing that it isn’t often our problem. Knowing that we may fail. We may not be able to dispel the fear or heal the wounds. Knowing that we may feel that we are still being carried ourselves.
My friends, this feast challenges us on every level. It asks us how comfortable we are being sheep. Whether or not we will allow our God through one another to carry us where we are meant to be.
And at the same time, it asks us whether we are willing to emulate the shepherd. To extend Christ’s arms to one another, lifting one another in our hours of need.
We have been left the example. We have been given the grace. Let us follow the path.
May God be Praised.