4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday) – May 3, 2020
St. Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 23:1-6; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10
Something that I struggle with a lot is this: “Life is not about me.” Every day. Every day I struggle with this. I’ve struggled with this ever since I was young. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. Live my life. I had my own plans, my own dreams. But no matter what, there was this nagging thought: “Life is not about you.” And even more importantly, “My life is not about me.” Because I would tell myself that too: “Sure, the world, everyone else’s lives—life is not just about me. But my life? Oh yeah, my life is about me!” Right?
Even when I think that “I’m doing me” and “I am living my best life” and if other people have a problem, that’s their problem not mine…I knew that wasn’t true. My decision, my life, my vocation—my life affects countless others. My life is not about me.
Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The prayers and the readings for the mass all focus on the role of Christ as the Good Shepherd, and us as the sheep. The opening prayer talks about us as the “humble flock” and Jesus as our “brave shepherd.” And this entire Sunday focuses us on this image—because it’s important!
Sheep are dumb. Sheep are so dumb! If you leave a sheep on its own, it will make the worst decisions. If you have a flock of sheep, they will just follow any sheep anywhere…they’re just so dumb. Sheep need a shepherd. It’s that simple. St. Peter uses this image in our second reading, speaking about us he says, “you had gone astray like sheep.” We have gone astray! We like to think that we’re fine and following the right path and doing fine…but we have gone astray. And I don’t need to stand up here and give examples, you can all think of them yourselves.
We have spent our time and energy and money “going” somewhere, “following” someone…and we have just ended up in a bad spot.
We allow the rest of the “flock” to pressure us into doing dumb stuff, into believing dumb stuff, into believing that “Life is about me! My life is about me!”
We have gone astray in relationships, breaking trust, hurting others.
We have gone astray.
The prophet Ezekiel was the best at pointing this out. He said, “You have been pasturing yourselves!” (c.f., Ez 31:1ff). And we all do this! We make everything about us! Life is about us! Every action, every decision, everything is self-referential, all about us. We spend our life trying to invent ourselves, love ourselves, make something of ourselves. And even though we may not believe the words, we live our life thinking, “My life is about me.”
But in all of our readings today, we hear about a Good Shepherd. Peter preaches about it in our first reading and our second reading, David sings about it in the Psalm, and Jesus himself talks about the Shepherd in our Gospel. But why a Shepherd?
Because when we have a shepherd, we know we are going to be taken care of, protected, provided for. When we have a shepherd, we don’t have to make life about us, because the Shepherd’s life is about us. When there is a shepherd, all of the time we spend trying to protect ourselves, guard our hearts, provide for ourselves—we don’t have to do that anymore.
A Shepherd gives us freedom. We can take a risk, and know that the Shepherd will provide for us—because even though “my life is not about me,” His life is only about me.
Today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations; vocations to the priesthood, vocation to the religious and consecrated life. Now in this time of crisis, we all experience what many many others have had to experience before: no mass, no sacraments. In many parts of the world, and in many parts of this country (and some a lot closer than you think), thousands of Catholics cannot attend mass on Sunday or receive the sacraments as frequently as we can. Why? Because they do not have priests. And it is not because God is not calling…it’s because people are saying “no.”
The first step for any person in discovering their vocation is to admit: “My life is not about me.” You have to admit that. You may not believe it, you may not know what that looks like day-to-day. But it begins there: “My life is not about me.”
But then the next step (and this is the hard one) is to take a risk! Many of you may feel this attraction to or call to the religious life, to be a nun, or to the priesthood. And that can be an exciting discovery, but it can also be frightening, worrying. This decision would involving risking everything. It involves the risk of leaving everything else behind to follow the Lord, to follow his call, to follow this Shepherd. We have our own plans, our own desires and ideas of what will make us happy. And God promises that he will fulfill our desire for happiness! He promises. That desire we have for happiness was given to us by God—but the idea, the image we have in our mind, the plan we have of what will fulfill that desire for happiness…may not be the plan God has. Sure, we can follow our own plan and be happy. But the Lord promises that those who risk everything in order to follow him will be one hundred times more happy NOW, and in the life to come.
But this involves a risk. It involves admitting to yourself, “My life is not about me.”
But that is precisely when the Good Shepherd, Christ himself, can begin to give us the happiness we seek. I guarantee it. I still struggle admitting that “my life is not about me.” I still struggle risking everything. But I have never, NEVER been let down by the Lord when I do.