Fourth Sunday of Easter – 150th Anniversary Mass

To watch Father Joe’s homily from the Fourth Sunday of Easter, our 150th Anniversary Mass: CLICK HERE!

This Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday.  Five times in today’s Gospel we hear Jesus, the Good Shepherd, say, “He lays down His life for His sheep.”  Jesus is not only the model shepherd, but the model human being who has discovered the purpose of his life and chooses to fulfill it without excuse or reservation.

In just five words by Jesus, “I am the Good Shepherd.”  We know everything that we need to know about Jesus:  Jesus — loves us, guides us, cares for us, guards over us, protects us from the Evil One.

In a recent letter to Christians around the world by Pope Francis, entitled Rejoice and Be Glad.” (Something that just might make some good summer reading at only 98 pages…)  Pope Francis reminds us that the most basic teaching handed on by Jesus is to help others, without any ifs or buts.

For over 2000 years, faith-filled people have come to know the Good Shepherd and have also come together to form a community of believers we call the Church.  A Church, a people  called to continue the Mission and Ministry of the Jesus.

A community of believers who gather around the table to hear the Scriptures (the Word of God) and to be nourished by the Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Jesus).  Food for the journey of life and faith.

This gathering, this Eucharist, is meant to bring people together; but also meant to send us out into the world.

For 150 years, this Parish of St. Mary’s, Crescent, beginning with just six families in 1868, growing to 25 families in 1929, then to 50 families in 1936, and then to 570 families in 1964 and now 1300 families in 2018, has promoted unity and love by feeding, embracing, consoling, teaching, assisting and forgiving others as we serve one another.

These windows of the Corporal Works of Mercy on the wall behind me are a constant reminder of our marching orders, if you will, as Parishioners of St. Mary’s.

Anniversaries are certainly times of celebration, but anniversaries are also times of renewal, re-commitment and I would suggest that our Parish Anniversary is an opportunity to renew and recommit ourselves to the Mission and Ministry of the Gospel of Jesus, as we continue in our journey of faith and of life.

Again as Pope Francis reminds us, “We are called to be Holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do: at home, at work, at school, in the Community, in our Parish, wherever we find ourselves.”

While I was putting some finishing touches on my homily, a phone call came into the office with a request for Anointing of the Sick.  The person was not dying, it was a busy week, another busy day, and here I was preparing this wonderful homily and the Anointing probably could have waited.  I was certainly tempted to respond by saying, “What time can I visit on Monday?”  But, living the Gospel is not always on our terms or my terms.  Living the Gospel sometimes means leaving what we are doing, to do something better or of a greater good.

And of course the affirmation of that is the sense of appreciation and joy the person had from our visit and I had just for going.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know there may have been a time or two when that person of faith was absent in our lives because of a shortage of understanding, forgiveness, civility, respect… whatever…

But let me share what the Pope said about Saints in his letter, “not everything a Saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect.”  What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person.”

And so the journey continues…

May we see the wonderful opportunities to live our faith that each day offers.  It all begins with getting up and seizing the opportunities that come our way, often in little ways, that bring our faith to life.

And hopefully, the inconveniences, the “ifs and buts,” the excuses and reservations, slowly disappear and more and more people would come to know the Good Shepherd through each of us as person, family and Church.

For 2000 years and for this Parish the past 150 years…

For all those people of faith, the “Saints next door” and the Saints in our own homes who have been role models of Good Shepherds to us and others, we pray today in Thanksgiving.

And we also pray today for ourselves, for our families, for our fellow parishioners: that we who are all called, will continue to: act justly, love tenderly, serve one another and walk humbly with our God.