Homily for fourth Sunday of Easter B

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

Jesus said he is the good shepherd, a shepherd who 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. There is no connection between the hired servant and the sheep, 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 easily confused, foolish, 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 lay down his life for our sake.

The question whether Jesus truly knows us or not 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; therefore, the question should rather be whether we know Jesus. That was what the rulers of the people and the elders wanted to find out from the apostles in our first reading. It all started when the apostles Peter and John were on their way to the Temple at the hour of prayer, at the beautiful gate they healed a man who was lame from birth and that caused confusion among the people. The apostles were questioned, by what power or by what name did you do this? In other words, do you know the good shepherd? The apostles were sure they knew Jesus, they proved to be the flock of the good shepherd, they had answer for the question they were asked. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: Rulers of the people, and elders! if you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a criple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified,…

The apostles were convinced of their knowledge and power of Jesus Christ and they fearlessly proclaimed him to the whole people of Israel. The apostles were confident and fearless because they know Jesus and Jesus knows them; he himself said I know my own and my own know me. Are you part of his flock? are you convinced? Can you say like the Psalmist, the Lord is my shephered, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures? Can you say that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil;? That is what it means to know and accept Jesus as our shepherd.

In our Second reading, John clarifies the usage of the word sheep. He made us understand that God has not reduced us to the level of animals but raised us to be joint heirs with his Son. We are his childrenThink of the love the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. The apostles were convinced of their Son-ship, they were convinced of been part of the flock of Jesus Christ and they spoke as Sons and not as slaves.

My dear brothers and sisters, we are the flock of Jesus Christ the good shepherd. He has entrusted the care of his sheep to the apostles and their successors; the bishops and their collaborators, the priests. Jesus said,  Feed my Lambs…tend my sheep… feed my sheep (Jn.21:15f). Today let us join the universal Church to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest, that many young men and women may hear the voice of God calling them to serve as priests and religious and respond accordingly.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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