Jesus, the Good Shepherd - We are in his Hand

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Today we think about Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Thinking of Jesus as our Good Shepherd reminds us of the intimacy and friendship between Jesus and us. The very beginning of our Gospel today also gives us a picture of that intimacy between Jesus and us, as Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Near the end of our brief Gospel passage today we get another picture of the intimacy between Jesus and us when Jesus says of us his sheep, “No one can take them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) This is a beautiful description of Jesus close to us and protecting us; we are in Jesus’ hand. Just as a father or mother holds a child up in its arms, Jesus holds us up in his hands close to his chest like the Beloved Disciple who was close to his chest during the Last Supper. Part of the famous Footprints poem also reminds us of how close God is to each of us,

“I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The years when you have seen only one set of footprints,
my child, is when I carried you.”

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying what he gives to his sheep; he says, “I give them eternal life” but did not explain how. But twice already in this Gospel of John, Jesus has told us how he gives eternal life. When Jesus met the woman who came to get water from the well in Samaria, he said to her, “the water that I shall give will become a spring welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) That spring welling up to eternal life is the Holy Spirit we receive first at baptism. Then two chapters later we hear Jesus say, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6:54) So Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who holds us in his hand to protect us, and promises us eternal life through Baptism and the Eucharist.

Not only is Jesus is the Good Shepherd close to us and holding us in his hand and giving us eternal life, but he also wants us to be close to him. We see this again in that same meeting with the woman by the well in Samaria. When Jesus arrived at the well, he and his disciples must have been hungry because the disciples went to the nearby town to get food. While they were away, Jesus had a beautiful conversation with the woman and she opened her heart to him more and more, eventually asking him for the water he gives (John 4:15), so that when the disciples returned and offered him food he said he already had food even though he had eaten nothing (John 4:32). The Samaritan woman opening her heart to him was all the food and drink Jesus wanted that day. That is what Jesus wants from us also, to open our hearts to him and stay close to him always just as he is close to us. Zacchaeus was curious to see Jesus so he climbed a tree, but Jesus wanted much more than just be seen by Zacchaeus so Jesus asked Zacchaeus to invite him into his house (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus also wants you to invite him into your house and heart. We see the same again when Jesus is dying on the cross. He said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28) Of course Jesus was dehydrated and thirsty but above all we understand this one of the seven last words of Jesus as his way of telling us that he thirsts for our love and friendship and affection. How do we satisfy this hunger and thirst of Jesus for us? By spending time with him in prayer every day. Pray not just for a few minutes every morning and evening but for as long as you can every day. In prayer above all we satisfy the hunger and thirst of Jesus for our love. We satisfy his hunger and thirst when we can come to daily Mass if we are able. We satisfy his hunger and thirst when we read his words in the Gospels at home in our Bibles. We satisfy his hunger and thirst for us when we receive him in the sacraments. Every time we love Jesus in whatever way we do, we satisfy his hunger and thirst for us.

As we satisfy Jesus’ hunger and thirst for us, Jesus the Good Shepherd continues to love us and care for us by calling men into the priesthood and religious life to take care of us and shepherd us. The priesthood is a sign of God’s love and concern for us. Today, Vocations Sunday, we pray that many will answer the Lord’s call to give themselves to the Him in the priesthood and religious life. In our first reading we heard how Paul and Barnabas were called by the Lord to be shepherds, to be “a light to the Gentiles” and “an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47) The second reading is from the Book of Revelation which is a vision John receives of heaven. In today’s excerpt, John sees the martyrs in heaven: “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14). One priest martyr I just heard of recently is Fr. Augusto (Fray Augusto Rafael Ramirez Monasterio), the Pastor of Antigua, Guatemala. He was captured, tortured and martyred on November 7, 1983 at the age of 46. The cause for his canonization was opened in 2013. To the end of his life, he was a good shepherd to his flock.

Today we think about Jesus as our Good Shepherd and the intimacy and friendship between Jesus and us. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27) and, “No one can take them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) This is a beautiful description of Jesus close to us and protecting us; we are in Jesus’ hand. Just as a father or mother holds a child up in its arms, Jesus holds us up in his hands close to him. He wants us to be close to him. When the Samaritan woman opened her heart to Jesus, that was all that Jesus wanted, and on the cross he thirsted for our love, affection and intimacy. We satisfy Jesus’ hunger and thirst for us by meeting him during Sunday Mass, by spending time with him in prayer every day and receiving him in the Sacraments.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2016

This homily was delivered in Pennsylvania.

More material for the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B

Related Homilies: Jesus the Good Shepherd carries us and lays down his life for us

See Vocation Sunday

Second Reading Related Revelation/Apocalypse (Saints in Heaven)