The Good Shepherd 5-12-2019

May 12th, 2019

For most of us I think it is safe to say this image of the Shepherd is not
something we see very much everyday. It was a very common scene in
the early Church: – it is a common scene in the Middle East. People in
the early Church could really understand what was involved in being a
shepherd. It was very real and earthy to them. The Biblical figure of the
Shepherd – has been romanticized a lot in paintings, pictures, Holy
Cards, “rosy cheeked young men – among pure white fluffy sheep on
beautiful green hillsides – very serene and peaceful.”
I did a little research into what Shepherds were like in the Time of
Jesus. It was a very lonely, dirty, dangerous job – that could not be
managed from a distance. Shepherds lived among the sheep in the filth
and stench – the lives of the sheep were their primary concern. A sheep
sometimes wandered far off from the others – when it got lost and could
not find it’s way back, it would simply lie down where it was and refuse to budge – the shepherd would search out for the lost sheep – carefully
pick it up and carry it home. There was a personal relationship between
the Shepherd and each individual sheep. They were not just numbers.
I believe this image of the Shepherd points us to God. God is
not squeamish; God will not run away when things get messy in our
lives; – God’s hands are dirty (not lily white); God’s clothes are stained
with waste, mud and blood – the waste, mud and blood of our roller
coaster lives. This God gets in the middle of the mess with us.
Does the mess magically disappear? Not most of the time; but
there is a sense we are not alone and that helps us get through it. A key
question for us; Are we afraid to share our messes with God?
How does this shepherding image of God come alive? Become real to
people – Today –
I believe most of the time thru people – we are called to be shepherds
for each other. We are responsible to pick each other up when we are
down.
“I thought just priests and ministers were shepherds – no we all are if
we call ourselves Christian and mean it.”
“Don’t we need special skill and talents – training to do this? No! We
need a caring heart, a little common sense and a few less excuses.
“What about when you don’t have the answers or solutions to people’s
problems? You don’t know what to say or do. Just listen and just be
there for them.
I close with a story I am sure we all have heard;
A man dreamed he died and went to heaven and there was met
by Jesus. The man had lived a long Christian life, but it had not been
without some time of great trial and tribulation as well as those times
of joy and victory. As he met with Christ, the man was given a
panoramic review of his life – all the highlights and low periods. In
the review of his life one of the things that continued throughout were
his footsteps along the sands of time.
The man noticed that at those times in his life when it had really
been rough there was only one set of footprints – not two as in the
good times. The man turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, I don’t
understand. You promised to be with me always. But when I look
back now, I see that in those really rough times there was only one set
of footprints. Lord, why did you leave me then?”
The Lord looked at him, smiled and said, ‘Leave you? I didn’t
leave you at all. Dear friend, if you look at the one set of footprints
carefully, you’ll notice they are a little deeper than the others. Those
were the time I was carrying you.”

Do You Love Me? 5-5-2019

May 7th, 2019

Our Gospel this Sunday reminds us again of some powerful good
news. It’s what I call the episode of the second chance. Now it is
important that you remember who was there in those boats. Jesus’
disciples. You know, the ones who fled when he was arrested. The
ones who, when he needed a bit of comfort, fell asleep on him. The ones
who, when the going got tough, abandoned him. And there, too, was
Peter, the leader, who figures so prominently in this story. He was there.
Remember, he denied even knowing Jesus.
It is to these that Jesus appears. And he has a question. And it is
urgently important that we realize what the question is not. His question
is not “What have you done?” His question is not “Who were you in the
past?” His question is not “Have you reformed?” His question is not
“Do you remember your sins?” His question has nothing to do with the
past and everything to do with the present. His question is simply “Here
and now, do you love me?”
“Do you love me?” That’s all Jesus is interested in. Let bygones
be bygones. Let sins be forgotten. Let mistakes be put aside. Let 2
stupidities be buried. Let hurts be unrecorded. Let betrayals be
unmentioned. All that matters is, “Right here, right now, do you love
me?”
Can you sense the drama of this very personal gospel, the absolute
forgiveness implied in the question, the total love of the Questioner?
Can’t you sense that this gospel lives? That on this Sunday morning, at
this liturgy, here and now, Someone is asking the only question that
matters in your life and mine. He is asking, “Do you love me?” It’s the
gift of the second chance. Never mind the past. “Today , do you love
me?” This is why this gospel was saved by the faith community. It was
saved for people like ourselves who also needed to know the Stranger is
on the shore of our lives as we toil with empty nets and that, above all,
the Stranger comes with a question and a challenge.
“Do you love me?” If you do, go forth from this church and love
others. Start with your family first. Give someone a second chance. Is
there someone you know who needs to be reminded that our God does
not say – Why did you? How could you? Our God says here – start
over. Try again. Try again.

Make The Love Of God Come Alive 5-19-2019

May 7th, 2019

In 1976 a car accident tore open the head of a 21-year old Chicago boy named
Peter. His brain was damaged and he was thrown into a deep coma.
Doctors told Peter’s family and friends that he probably wouldn’t survive.
Even if he did, he’d always be in a comatose state. One of the people who heard
that frightening news was Linda, the girl Peter planned to marry.
In the sad days ahead, Linda spent all her spare time in the hospital. Night
after night, she’d sit at Peter’s beside, pat his cheek, rub his brow, and talk to him.
“It was like we were on a normal date”, she said.
All the while Peter remained in a coma, unresponsive to Linda’s loving
presence.
Night after night, for three and a half months, Linda sat at Peter’s bedside,
speaking words of encouragement to him, even though he gave no sign that he
heard her.
Then one night Linda saw Peter’s toe move. A few nights later she saw his
eyelash flutter. This was all she needed. Against the advice of the doctors, she
quit her job and became his constant companion. She spent hours massaging his arms and legs. Eventually she arranged to take
him home. She spent all her savings on a swimming pool, hoping that the sun
and the water would restore life to Peter’s motionless limbs.
Then came the day when Peter spoke his first word since the accident. It was
only a grunt, but Linda understood it.
Gradually, with Linda’s help, those grunts turned into words—clear words.
Finally the day came when Peter was able to ask Linda’s father if he could
marry her. Linda’s father said, “When you can walk down the aisle, Peter, she’ll
be yours”.
Two years later, Peter walked down the aisle of Our Lady of Pompeii Church
in Chicago. He had to use a walker, but he was walking.
Every television station in Chicago covered that wedding. Newspapers across
the country carried pictures of Linda and Peter.
Celebrities phoned to congratulate them. People from as far away as Australia
sent them letters and presents. Families with loved ones in comas called to ask
their advice.
Today, Peter is living a normal life. He talks slowly, but clearly. He walks
slowly, but without a walker. He and Linda even have a lovely child. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one
another”.
I would like each one of you to supply another example. Who has made the
love of God come alive by the sacrifices they have made for you? We need to
thank them and follow their example.