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Homily for fourth Sunday of Easter, A

05 May 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter, good shepherd Sunday and a day set aside by the Church to specially pray for vocation to the priesthood and the religious life; hence the name vocation Sunday.

Jesus said he is the sheep gate, he is the way. He is the  shepherd who truly knows his flock, a shepherd who loves his sheep, a shepherd who is ready to lay down his life for his sheep unlike the hired servant who abandons the sheep in times of danger. Between the hired servant and the sheep, there is no connection; he is there not because he loves the sheep but because he loves himself. It is his means of livelihood, he stays with the sheep because he loves his own family and wants to provide for his own family, that is why he runs away from the sheep in times of danger to keep himself for his family. But Jesus is the good shepherd who stays with the sheep because he loves them, he stays with the sheep not because of what he gets from them but because of what they get from him.

A sheep is an animal that is foolish, easily confused, vulnerable, defenseless and needs constant direction. Jesus said he knows his sheep and his sheep knows him, we are the sheep of God. He knows us, he knows you by your name and knows how we can easily be confused. He knows how foolish we can be sometimes, he knows how vulnerable and defenseless we can be and so he laid down his life for our sake.

The question whether Jesus truly knows us is not in doubt at all, he knows us even before we were born. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you… Jer. 1:5. He knows our challenges, he knows our frustrations. The question should rather be whether we know Jesus. That is what Peter and the eleven proved in our first reading this morning, they were confident in Christ. They were very sure that He who was crucified has been raised, that Jesus is alive with power and authority. They addressed the whole house of Israel with confidence and the people were cut to the heart; they repented. They repented because of what they heard, the voice that spoke to them. Paul tells us in Romans 10:17 that faith comes from what is heard, in other words, you become what you listen to. In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus says He is the gate of the sheepfold, it is in Him we go in and out in peace. Any other way, no matter how smooth leads to destruction and death. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the voice the sheep recognizes and the voice we all must listen to, any other voice deceives.

Today, there are so many voices, so many shepherds, and the sheep are getting confused. There are so many “evangelists”, “apostles” and “seers” in the Church today, especially in the Church of Nigeria. Visions and messages have become so common, coming from different sources to the extent that so many no longer know when God speaks. The quest for signs and wonder have led some Christians to pay more attention to the deceptive voice of the devil. The devil is very much aware that so many Christians today are running after miracles, signs and wonder. He is ready to perform so many of them to lure them into his basket. There are more miracle workers today than preachers of the gospel because that is what most people want. Some Christians now follow “powerful” men and women of God and not God. Never you forget that the devil was once an angel of light, the most decorated angel in heaven and can still present himself as such to deceive you. But those that belong to Christ knows his voice and they follow him.

No matter the situation we must as Christians learn to listen to the voice of God and follow him in good and in bad times. That was what Mary Magdalene did. Even in pains, in sorrow and in tears she was able to recognize the voice of Jesus. Though she confused the body of the resurrected Christ for the gardener, she recognized the voice and exclaimed, Raboni! The pains and challenges of life may be used against us, they may blunt our faith to stop us from recognizing the voice of Jesus. It is at this moment of life that so many voices speak, they pretend to proffer solutions but they are deceptive. Our pains and tears must not make us give up on the resurrected Christ, he knows you by name and he know what you are going through.

As we celebrate good shepherd Sunday as well as vocation Sunday, let us pray for the grace to be attentive in the spirit, to be able to test spirits and discern the truth. We also pray for the Church, that Christ the good shepherd may raise shepherds after his heart to feed his sheep.