Fourth Sunday of Easter

Probably some of you at this moment are thinking: what can shepherding teach us about God and our relationship with him? Well, at the end of each day the shepherd brought his sheep into shelter. They knew the voice of their shepherd and came at his beckoning[1].

So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name. In the winter the sheep were usually brought to a shelter which was locked. In the summer months the sheep were usually kept out in the fields and then gathered into a fold at night which was guarded by a shepherd throughout the night. He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.

The scriptures describe God as a shepherd who brings security and peace to his people. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore[2]. Just as the shepherd gives direction and protection to the sheep, the Lord gives direction and protection to his people.

Life is too difficult to attempt to make it through safely alone. We need direction. We need protection, in one just one word: We need Jesus Christ. We call ourselves Christians because we are followers of the Lord, but we are also Christians because the Lord follows after us, helping us to get into line, protecting us from the elements of life that would destroy us.

The problem that we all have is that we think that we are invincible. And this is not true. We are dependent upon the Lord. That's why we pray every day. That's why we come to Church every week. That's why we receive the Eucharist. His is the strength that gives meaning, purpose and direction to our lives. He is the sheep gate who protects us. He is the shepherd who leads us.

As you know, our Holy Father will address the United Nations and visit New York. The media will cover his visit, including the Masses he will celebrate. I don't know yet what Pope Benedict will say to our country, but I do know this: His message will be the same as his earliest predecessor. We heard it today in the first reading: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins[3].

Like St. Peter, Pope Benedict will call us to turn away from sin – those ways of thinking and acting that separate us from God and each other. And he will invite us to open the door –by prayer and the sacraments to enter a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray for him, for the success of his apostolic trip, and to love God and the Church with a generous and big heart.

[1] Sunday 13th April, 2008, 4th Sunday of Easter. [St Martin]. Readings: Acts 2:14, 36-41. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Ps 22(23):1-6. 1 Peter 2:20-25. John 10:1-10.
[2] Psalm 120:8
[3] Acts 2: 38.

Ilustration: The good shepherd , Galla Placidia Mausoleum.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a highly important Byzantine mausoleum in Ravenna, Italy Built in 425-430 AD, the structure is designed in the shape of a Greek cross, and has a cupola that is entirely in mosaics, representing eight apostles and symbolical figures of doves drinking from a vessel. The other four apostles are represented on the vaults of the transverse arm; over the door is a representation of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, young, beardless, with flowing hair, and surrounded by sheep; opposite, there is a subject that is interpreted as representing Saint Lawrence. Thin, translucent panels of stone admit light into the structure through the windows. The building (formerly the oratory of a wider church of the Holy Cross) contains three sarcophagi; the largest is said to have been that of Galla Placidia, and that her embalmed body was deposited there in a sitting position, clothed with the imperial mantle; in 1577, however, the contents of the sarcophagus were accidentally burned. The sarcophagus to the right is attributed to Emperor Valentinian III or to Galla Placidia's brother, Emperor Honorius. The one on the left is attributed to Galla Placidia's husband, Emperor Constantius III.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris