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Fourth Sunday of Easter - April 22, 2018


Traducir al Español

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  As a shepherd, Jesus knows us and calls us by name.  Sometimes we pray to Jesus as if He does not know our needs and concerns.  We should pray, not to direct the attention of the Lord to our needs, but that we and others might be transformed to love as generously as Jesus does.

 

Jesus loves us and sacrificed himself for us.  When Jesus died on the cross he said, “It is accomplished.” The Greek word uttered by Jesus in the Gospel of John is a word scribes used to say that a debt was paid in full.  This means Jesus loves us so much he paid the debt we owe due to our sins.

 

Jesus feeds his flock with his body and blood.  During the first Passover, the Israelites sacrificed a lamb and painted their doors with its blood to cause the angel of death to pass over their homes.  Later, they ate the roasted flesh of the lamb to commemorate being saved by the lamb.  At the last supper, Jesus offered us his blood to save us from the death of sin, and his flesh to commemorate our being saved by the Blood of the Lamb.

 

Jesus shepherds us through out darkest hours.  Psalm 23: “Though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for your are at my side.  With your rod and your staff that give me courage.”  I love the song, “Shepherd me O God beyond my thoughts beyond my fears from death unto life.”

In the Gospel of John, when Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep,” he is passing on to Peter his ministry of shepherd.  Bishops are the successors of Peter – hence their crozier – their staff – is a symbol of their ministry as shepherds.  Bishops are called by Jesus to guide, protect, and unify their flock.

Bishops likewise extend their pastoral ministry to deacons.  In Acts, chapter 6, the widows who spoke Greek felt they were being neglected compared to the widows who spoke Hebrew.  The Apostles appointed assistants to help with the daily distribution, the Diakonia.  Notice that the men ordained all had Greek names to extend the ministry of the Hebrew church in Jerusalem to the Greek immigrants.  This means deacons are ordained to be a bridge between the bishop and the people and a bridge between elements within the community.

 

This week the second collection is for the Office of the Permanent Diaconate – for its St. Stephen Fund for needs within the diaconal community and for the annual diaconate retreat.  A word about the ministry of deacons.  When a deacon is ordained he becomes a sacrament and reveals Christ as servant.  That means that a deacon at liturgy should remind us that Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and washed the feet of the disciples.  The deacon reminds us that to be a disciple is to be a servant – to follow Jesus who did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for others.  A deacon is also minister of the Word.  At ordination, the Bishop hands the deacon the book of the Gospels and says, “Receive the Gospels whose herald you now are.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach.”  I take this mandate seriously because I know how much Jesus wants to feed his people with his Word and I know how hungry the people are for the Word of God.  The deacon also has a ministry of Charity to serve the community outside of the confines of the church.  An interesting point of Canon Law stipulates that a bishop is shepherd of all the people in his diocese, not only Catholics.  How can Bishop Guglielmone serve the 5 million residents of South Carolina?  He cleverly has staged deacons all around the state to extend his ministry of shepherd to those in need.

 

When you receive a communion host with a defect – like a missing piece – it does not diminish the presence of Christ in the host.  Likewise, the faithful look past defects in its ordained ministers to perceive Christ as Shepherd, priest, and servant.  But woe to the minister who gives counter witness to Christ and brings scandal to the flock; better that that man was never born.  Please pray for your clergy, that after preaching to other they themselves may not be found wanting.

I am not sure why Christ called me to be a deacon – I believe it was to keep me out of the choir.  When I hear the Lord’s call, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep,” I feel the awesome responsibility.  At the same time I know that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will not fail to feed his flock.