Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Apr 21, 2024 Views 543 Listen 3 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:8-12)

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: "Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (118:2-24)


(R) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (R)

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my saviour. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. (R)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my saviour. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his kindness endures forever. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the First Letter of Saint John (3:1-2)

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; 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.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (10:11-18)

Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

One of the notable aspects of Jesus' teaching ministry was that He often used parables, images, metaphors, and sayings to express important truths about his nature, character and mission. One of the famous sayings of Jesus is "I AM". "I AM" is a common English translation of the Hebrew word "Ehyeh" or "Yahweh", the name for the God of the Israelites. In fact, "I AM" is a short form of "I AM THAT I AM" in Hebrew "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" the name with which God revealed Himself to Moses for the first time on Mount Sinai, Exodus (3:14). Since then it has been used throughout Israel's history to convey a sense of self-existence and eternal presence of God. It signifies that God always was, He is right now, and He always will be. God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. By deliberately identifying Himself with that designation, Jesus claimed absolute equality with God.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus declared himself to be "I AM" seven times throughout his ministry, such as, "I am the Bread of Life", John (6:35), "I am the Light of the World" John (8:12), "I am the Door" John (10:7), "I am the Good Shepherd" John (10:11, 14), "I am the Resurrection and the Life" John (11:25), "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life" John (14:6) and "I am the True Vine" John (15:1). Jesus made these declarations and then explained them in His own words. Besides, Jesus made these declarations after performing a miracle so as to give meaning for his ministry. It shows us that Jesus' miracles were not just acts of power or mercy, but actions demonstrating the purpose of His earthly ministry and all that He is, and has done, for mankind.

As for the declaration "I am the Good Shepherd" John writes that on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus healed a man born blind at the Pool of Siloam on a Sabbath, and this sparked a heated debate over the identity of Jesus. The people who had witnessed the healing brought the man to the Pharisees for interrogation. As they were not satisfied with his answer, they questioned his parents. But they refused to answer them, for they were afraid of being cast out of the synagogue if they supported Jesus. However, just as his parents had feared, the Pharisees banned him from the synagogue. Later, Jesus found the rejected man and asked him the most important question - whether he believed in Jesus for who He is. After seeing Jesus for the first time and recognizing his voice as that of the man who had healed him, the man instantly believed in Jesus.

It was in response to these events, Jesus proclaimed, "I am the Good Shepherd". Now, the imagery of sheep and shepherds may be hard for us to understand, particularly, those living in cities and those who have never spent time in the countryside but not for the Israelites in Jesus' day. They certainly would have known about and understood not only the reality of shepherding but also what Jesus was implying here.

Shepherding was their vital occupation. Their patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David were all shepherds. Moreover, Jesus was not the first person to use the image of a shepherd. In their Scriptures, the shepherd image was often applied exclusively to their God as well as to their leaders. For instance, the prophet Isaiah compares God to a caring shepherd who tends to his flock, Isaiah (40:11). The prophet Ezekiel portrays God as a loving shepherd who searches diligently for his lost sheep, Ezekiel (34:16). In one of the best-known psalms and the favourite biblical passages of many - Psalm 23 - the psalmist addresses God with endearment as his Shepherd. The prophets often used the image of a shepherd to rebuke the leaders and the priests of the Israelites for their bad example, false teaching, and failure to keep the law and their neglect of their responsibilities to care for and protect the people under their care, Jeremiah (23:1), Ezekiel (34:2) and Hosea (4:4-10). So, Jesus invoked the imagery of shepherds and sheep that was familiar to His hearers and made a bold claim that He is the Good Shepherd.

He then clarified that as the Good Shepherd, He cares about His sheep's welfare and protects them, even if it means giving up his own life, whereas a hireling runs in time of danger and leaves the sheep behind to be attacked or scattered for they are not his sheep, and he does not care about them. Jesus further stated that the close bond or relationship between Him and His sheep is like that of the bond or relationship between Him and His Father. In addition, Jesus indicated that He would bring together "other sheep" that are not of this fold so that they all would be united under a single shepherd. By "other sheep" Jesus probably meant the poor, tax collectors, sinners, and the non-Jews who were generally ostracized by the society and the people and nations beyond Israel. Finally, Jesus made it clear that since He has complete power over life and death, He voluntarily, willingly, and consciously lays down His life in full submission to His Father's will to save all people from sin but He would take back His life.

What is the message for us?

  • After His resurrection, Jesus continues His work of being our Good Shepherd through His Church, the sheepfold and He brings us into the sheepfold through Baptism. He strengthens our faith by giving us the Holy Spirit through Confirmation. He feeds and nourishes our mind, body, and soul with His body and blood through Holy Eucharist. He makes us holy through Marriage. He makes us instruments of His ministry through Priesthood. He heals the wounds of our souls through Reconciliation. He comforts us in illness and old age through Anointing of the Sick. He speaks to us through His Word, and by His voice He guides us to eternal life. Thus, through the sacraments and His Holy Word, Jesus as our Good Shepherd shows us His love and care, protects us from dangers seen and unseen and guides us to combat Satan, evil spirits and deadly sins such as pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Therefore, let us, as one flock of Jesus, always gather to read and hear His Word and approach the celebration of His life-giving sacraments with the utmost reverence, adoration, gratitude, love, hope, confidence and faith.

  • As Jesus is a good shepherd to us, we too are called to be "good shepherds" to others. Not only bishops, priests, deacons, religious brothers, nuns, and sisters but all of us. As Christian parents, teachers, catechists, doctors, nurses, bosses, government officials, and political leaders, we have the responsibility to lead, guide, teach, protect, and oversee those assigned to us. Let us remember that our Good Sheperd who knows all and sees all is watching us - His under shepherds - and that He will hold us accountable for our failure to shepherd others well. Let us not just focus on the shepherding of people who are dear and close to us but also whom we fear or scorn because of their attitudes or behaviours or beliefs. Though our Good Shepherd cares for us, His own, because of our faith and hope in Him, He loves and takes responsibility for bringing all people together, without exception, to be united under a single shepherd, for God has made us all and loves us all. Our Lord Jesus ultimately died for the sins of us, His believers, as well as for those of the entire world.

  • We must be good and obedient sheep in the fold of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Whether the sheepfold is the whole universal community of believers or the local parish or small church groups, such as choir, readers, altar servers, youth clubs etc., or our own individual families, we all must believe, hear and follow our Shepherd's voice in order to receive eternal life. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we must journey together, communally discerning our needs, concerns or problems, praying for one another, and giving encouragement and support to one another as we seek to become one single and united flock following Jesus.

Let us pray today and every day that we all may grow and lead one another toward a maturing faith and a deepening relationship with Christ, our Good Shepherd.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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