Sunday, April 18, 2010

Homily for Misericordias Domini (Easter 3)


St. John 10:11-16

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd.

Of course, He is also the flock, and He is the pasture, and He is the sacrificial Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.

He is not like other shepherds who labor for a wage and who care nothing for the sheep. They serve only themselves and care only about that which fills their bellies or increases their friends and influence amongst men. Oh, they will lead the sheep to the green pastures and the cool water, but, when the wolf comes, the enemy, they’re not about to put themselves in harm’s way. Most of them flee, but some will stay and try to find a way to coexist with the predator; if you keep your distance and don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself, like speak the Truth in boldness and clarity, warning the sheep that the wolf is near, maybe the wolf will just take a sheep or two and leave. After all, the world is a dangerous place!

Not so, the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd does not flee when the wolf comes, nor does He try to find a way to coexist with the predator; He knows that the beast must be destroyed. Though the Good Shepherd’s weapons seem a weak defense, nevertheless, they prove most powerful – The rod and staff of God’s Word, Law and Gospel, as effective as a sling and five smooth stones. But the greatest weapon against the enemy is Love – no, not the love of Hallmark cards and romantic comedies, but true, unconditional, selfless, sacrificial Love. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. On a day of clouds and thick darkness He threw Himself into the wolf’s snapping jaws and ripping teeth and He died. The Good Shepherd laid Himself down as a sheep, as one sheep for the whole flock, and He became the sacrifice that destroyed the power of the enemy and put to an end all sacrifice.

Though the wolf is defeated, his power destroyed, still he hunts and threatens and scatters the sheep. His weapons are lies and deception. Often he even wears the disguise of a sheep! He seeks to divide the flock, to single out the weak and struggling sheep and lead them off to devour them. So much easier is his deception when the hireling undershepherds cannot be bothered with the Truth. The truth is, the wolf has no teeth, for our Good Shepherd has defanged him, but how many believe his lies and perish!

The Good Shepherd searches for and seeks out His sheep whom the wolf has scattered, who have strayed from the safety of the flock. He uses hireling undershepherds – prophets, priests, judges and kings, Pharisees and rabbis, pastors – to seek out His scattered sheep and gather them into the flock, there to feed them, care for them, and protect them from the enemy in His stead and by His command. But they are hirelings, they do not own the sheep, and, though many are faithful, there are many who do not love or care for the sheep. When the wolf comes, they run, loving their own lives more than God’s people, or they stay, permitting the wolf to ravage the flock so long as he does not come to near to their own lives or interests. Often the wolf infiltrates the flock disguised as a sheep while the uncaring and unwary hireling looks the other way. What is a sheep to do?

Left to your own devices, prone to straying, weak and defenseless, with shepherds who also are sheep, with the enemy prowling the flock, often under the guise of a sheep, there is no hope. But the Good Shepherd knows this about you; Your Shepherd knows you better than you know yourself. He knows how you worry about where you will get your next meal, how you will pay your bills, what kind of future your children will have, who’s going to take care of you in your old age. He knows how the enemy pumps up your pride so that you feel secure in yourself or how he cudgels you into despair. He knows how you are tempted to listen to voices other than His, voices of worldly reason and wisdom, voices of pragmatic efficiency, but voices of those who do not care for you or love you, who love only themselves and will quickly sacrifice you if it serves them. The Good Shepherd knows you, He knows this about you, just as the Father knows Him – and still He lays down His life for you.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd; He is not a hireling, but He owns the sheep and He loves His sheep. And, He is also the entire flock, for, as sin entered the world through the one man Adam and thus all men were corrupted, so by the one man Jesus Christ is the sin of all men atoned for – He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. Thus, our Good Shepherd is also God’s sacrificial Lamb, laying down His life for His sheep, submitting unto death that His sheep may have His life in abundance.

But our Good Shepherd, who is the flock and the sacrificial Lamb of God, is also the green pasture in which we feed, drink, and are comforted and protected. He leads you to drink of the cool waters that He sanctified, and in Holy Baptism He has restored your soul. He anoints you with the chrism of His Holy Spirit, marking you, branding you, naming you, claiming you as His own, promising that nothing will separate you from His selfless, sacrificial, holy and perfect Love. And He feeds you with His own flesh and blood, here in this valley of the shadow of death, even in the presence of your enemy; He fills you to the brim with His love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness and you are satisfied, there is no want, and still He pours into you His overflowing abundance.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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