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4th Sunday of Easter - May 12, 2019

Homilia en Español

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By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

When Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” some of those who heard him reached for stones to end his life.  That is why Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.”  Those who hear the voice of Jesus follow him and receive eternal life – those who do not hear his voice do not follow him.


Salvation is a mystery.  1 Timothy 2:4 says, “God wills all to be saved and come to the knowledge of Christ,” yet some persons appear not bound for salvation.  We cannot grasp the plan of God for salvation but we can open our life to the offer of God to be saved.


The first step to receive salvation is purgation, “Repent and believe in the Good News.”  We turn from sin to be open to a relationship with God.  This is painful because sin creates habits that make selfishness comfortable.  So we adopt the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane: “Your will be done, Father, not mine.”


The second step toward salvation is enlightenment.  This is the stage where we cooperate with God to become a disciple.  For example, am I a member of a faith-sharing group that I may prepare for the readings at Mass?  Do I continue my education in the Catholic tradition?  Do I meditate on Scripture daily?  St. Thomas Aquinas taught the importance of the correct disposition to receive sacraments.    His phrase in Latin was, “ex opere operatum,” which means that we receive grace in the sacraments according to our disposition.  Christ is present in the sacraments in the power of his death and resurrection – but the grace we receive is based on how ready we are to encounter Christ in the sacraments.  The one who comes to communion with his or her hands in their pockets and is thinking of what is for lunch is not receiving communion with reverence and devotion.  When Jesus said, “Ephatha” to the man who could not speak or hear, he was not only addressing the tongue and the ears of the man but the man himself: be open to me that you may be healed and saved.


The third stage of spiritual growth is union with Jesus; we are one with Christ in his suffering and death that we may rise with him.  That is why John had a vision of those in heaven who had survived the time of great distress and washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.  In this stage we move beyond prayers, beyond images to a contemplative union with Jesus.


When I come for an hour of adoration I grow in my union with Jesus – contemplating how I belong to him and he belongs to me.  That may sound bold to claim Christ belongs to me but it is true by the gracious will of God. In the Lamb of God during Mass when the celebrant says, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb,” he is referring to Revelation Chapter 19 and the wedding feast of the Lamb.  Not only is the church called to the feast be we are called as the bride of Christ.  That is the union with Jesus to which we are called – the marriage union in which a man belongs to his wife and a woman belongs to her husband.


The mysterious nature of salvation is present in most families where we raise our children the same but some grow to an ardent love of God and participation in the church and some have a casual relationship with God and the church.  On this Mothers Day we remember St. Monica, who never gave up on her son Augustine; we must continue to pray for our family and friends and witness with our own faithful participation in the church.  When we hold our family and friends in prayer we are maintaining a link to them in which the communion of the church is extended to them.  Christ is the Good Shepherd is seeking those who are lost but Jesus calls us to maintain vigil with him – thus the prayer:


Protect us Lord as we stay awake, watch over us as we sleep;
That awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.  Amen



By Deacon Tim Papa

  1. Have you ever heard the old expression about herding cats? It is usually used in situations where someone is remarking on the futility of controlling the uncontrollable, and usually the uncontrollable are people who insist on doing their own thing instead of a more coordinated effort by a larger group. It usually refers to those that can’t see beyond their immediate needs and desires to see the good that would come from a united effort.
  2. Those of you who have owned cats or been around them know that a cat is a very independent animal. They are nothing like sheep.
  3. Sheep are not a common farm animal in this country, and if you are like me your only experience near one is probably at petting zoos. For the purposes of understanding the gospel, I have learned from the great and all-knowing Google that, like a domesticated dog, a sheep will learn and follow the voice of its master, and be able to distinguish it from other voices, even the voices of those who would try to imitate the voice of its master.
  4. In the Gospel, we find Christ comparing His followers to sheep. If we are Christians and keep our baptismal commitments, we strive to learn the voice of God and follow His instructions. This places two obligations on us. First, we must learn His voice. We all just heard the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, where we listen to the Word of God as it is laid down in the Scriptures. When the Gospel is read, we not only listen to it, but we rise to our feet when we do so, indicating our reverence to the Word but also our attention to hearing it. The custom of bring the candles to illuminate the book comes from the ancient Roman custom of lighting extra candles before a judge ruled, as a sign that he read the law carefully and accurately when he spoke concerning a matter. The lectors just read the readings, the cantor sung the psalm, and I read the Gospel. I hope we were all both clear and accurate. It is all of our responsibility to now try to understand the Word of God and then fulfill our second obligation, live out our life in faithful obedience to it.
  5. But if the Gospel shows us Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the second reading from Revelations has Jesus at the other end of the shepherd's hook, that is to say a sheep Himself: the Lamb of God. If this seems to be a little confusing, a mixing of metaphors, we should resolve to consider it and pray about it. For it gets at one of the most profound mysteries of Christianity: the fact that Christ, in incarnate Son of God, was both fully human and fully God, thus both Lamb and Shepherd. This nature of Christ, although difficult to understand and the source of much discussion in the early Church, resulting in the first Ecumenical Councils of bishops in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries to iron it out, gets to the essence of our salvation. It is because of the human nature of Christ that He could die for our sins, and His divine nature that He can promise us eternal life with the Father.
  6. We commemorate this mystery in just a few moments in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. If one reads Exodus we learn of the sacrifices required by the law handed to the Israelites by Moses, performed at the altar in the Tent of the Congregation and then in the temple in Jerusalem. This included the sacrifice in thanksgiving to God of the first born male animals, including sheep. As Saint Paul explained in his letters, Christ has given us a new law, one in which Jesus becomes the pascal lamb who is sacrificed for all humanity. The Eucharist becomes not only a memorial of this sacrifice, but a continuation of the sacrifice in which we all participate. By participating in this sacrament, we all are one, in communion with both God and one another, forming the Church which is the body of Christ. We also help sustain this body and grow stronger in the bonds of community when we participate in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each week. While in silent prayer in the presence of God, we can contemplate and ask for help in understanding these great mysteries which Jesus has bestowed on the world.
The question we must then ask ourselves when contemplating the readings today is, when Jesus as the Good Shepherd calls to us, are we like sheep, listening to His voice and following His teachings to the best of our ability? Are we following the example He himself provided us as the Pascal Lamb by following the will of the Father, leading a sinless life and accepting death on a cross? Or are we more like cats which don't follow instructions, unless of course there is a treat being dangled in front of them? Do we think we know what is best and place our desires above the obligations we know we have to God and our neighbor? Let us pray, starting now with our reception of the Eucharist, to receive God's blessing and assistance to help us to listen, to learn.

By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

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