April 25, 2021
The Third Sunday after Easter
(World Day of Prayer for Vocations)
(Acts 4:8-12; John 10:11-18)
I am sure many of you have heard someone say that their dog looks like its owner. Oddly, one can go online and see some “evidence” of that theory. What about long married couples? Yes, they too sometimes look alike after many years of marriage. At the very least, their various habits and thought processes have become that of their partner.
We tend to naturally imitate some traits of those we are close to. Our beliefs and attitudes. Our allegiances. Our hobbies. Favorite brand names. You get the idea. The more we truly see and contemplate one another with love, the more our lives become intertwined. Choosing to love one another molds us together such that we become who we never could have become without one another.
Jesus, today, tells us the story of the “good shepherd.” “A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” This can be a troubling statement to our modern ears, but it shouldn’t be. Long married couples would do this. Dogs tend to be so loyal, they would do the same. (Except Mickey. He would run in opposite direction! He must be the “hired hand” Jesus mentioned!) Of course, as we know, Jesus was speaking metaphorically of himself and what would take place at Golgotha later.
Though this story represents Jesus’ willingness to suffer on the cross for us, it also harkens to God’s relationship with humanity since the beginning of time and that He will continue to be our shepherd to the end of time.
A hired hand will not stick around to help us when the “wolf” comes to the field – when the devil comes into the field, the hired hand runs. But the good shepherd does not run. He stays and protects the sheep and keeps the wolf at bay. The sheep know their shepherd, more by smell than anything else. The shepherd smells like one of them, because he is around them and sheers their wool and thus his clothes smells like them.
Jesus’ story came to pass. Jesus was no hired hand. Jesus laid down His life for all of us. We know this to be true from the Scriptures and historical writings. Jesus knew His sheep and gladly laid His life down for all of us. Rebellious sheep that we are, we are chased by the wolf toward the cliff, but our Good Shepherd comes and saves us before we get to the cliff.
When we think of the perception that we look like our pets, or that long married couples look and act alike, it is good to remember that this isn’t the only instance. We were created in God’s image. In fact, Genesis says we were made in “their” (our [Genesis 1:26]) likeness. We were made in the image of the Trinity.
John says in his first epistle, “what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (John 3:2) The Trinity was before we were.
The combination of Jesus’ description of what can happen because He is our Good Shepherd and John’s promise that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” may seem somewhat esoteric, but we need to remember that the Word became flesh. God decided to smell like us so that we could take on the characteristics of the Divine image in which we were created. As such, we move more deeply into what has not yet been revealed through every relationship that draws us more deeply into the love of others.
Friends pick up one another's gestures, and couples who have loved long do begin to resemble one another. That's because they have been given one another what is most precious - they've spent their time on and with one another. In doing so, they have become more whole.
Today, Christ comes to us in the image of the Good Shepherd. It's important to note that everything He says about being a Good Shepherd is addressed to us in the plural. He doesn't invite us to be His exclusive lamb, but the sheep of His flock.
Jesus introduces us to God as Trinity, God who is a community in an ever-growing relationship. Jesus invites us to be His communal sheep, smelling like one another, growing in Him, giving our lives to and for one another. Doing that, we become ever more related and thus more like God in whose image we were fashioned.
Isn’t it amazing how our God, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, created us in His image? Isn’t also amazing how we often do not reflect Him in our daily lives? We have been given the greatest gift – life. Life in the image of God.
Because we treated this gift with such callous indifference, God came down to mankind in the person of the Son. God becomes man to save us, to be close to us, and to show how to live as He intended us to live. To bring us back – all of us are lost sheep. Christ came and beckons us back to the fold.
He laid down his life that we might have it again after losing it. He comes not just to those who already know Him; he comes to all of mankind. He comes to anyone and everyone. All the sheep of the fold and those who are not. No one is too far for Him to seek and find and bring them to the fold.
Sometimes we forget, or maybe rather not think about the fact that this life we are in now is but glimpse of what it to come. This life is finite, but the life to come is infinite. As followers of the Good Shepherd, we will have everlasting happiness and be transformed even more into the image of God.
Let us pray.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd who was prepared to lay down His life for us. We pray that we may be forever in His care and be worthy of the love He has bestowed on us. We pray to the Lord.
Jesus tells the Apostles “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice”. We pray for our Church that it be an inclusive and a welcoming home for all those it has wrongfully alienated in the past. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for all those in our church, men and women, ordained and lay, who have been called to the role of shepherd, that they may follow closely the example of Christ and bear witness to His goodness. We pray to the Lord.
At this time when our Church has a crisis in the priesthood, we pray to the Lord that He inspire both men and women to answer His call to proclaim His Gospel and minister to His flock. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for an understanding among God’s children that we are all brothers and sisters in the same human family. We pray Lord that you open our ears to the cries of those wounded by discrimination and their passionate appeals for change and that we seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities. We pray to the Lord.
We pray that as we see unprecedented violence in our nation and that of many countries of the world, that we remember Christ’s words that those who “live by the sword, shall die by the sword,” and that the same Christ may inspire all to live in diversity without bloodshed. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
God of justice, in your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception. Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family. Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change. Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history. And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities.
Help us to reflect Your love for us with the love we have for each other. Thank You for Your love and mercy shown to us. Thank You that we can comfort another with the same love and mercy that has comforted us. Praise be to You, our Shepherd. We are Your people, the sheep of Your pasture. Help us today to understand more fully how You have made us to live together and serve each other. Help us to understand Your plan for your flock and to give You praise. We make this prayer through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen
God Love You +++
The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
Please help if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++