HOMILY: 4th SUNDAY OF EASTER ‘C’ 2019
This year, Bishop Alan has not given us a Pastoral Letter for Good Shepherd Sunday. Instead, he has asked us Priests to say something about our own vocation – what the Priesthood has meant for us and what it continues to mean for us.
For me, the call to seek Ordination to the Priesthood and the way I have tried to be a Priest has always been very much to do with enabling others to find peace and security, safety and protection, above all by helping them to find MEANING in their lives – helping others to see that it is in the last analysis God, and only God, who gives MEANING to our lives. One important way the Priest can do this is of course by his ministry of teaching. And also by trying himself to live – and encouraging others to live – with a deep and lively sense of solidarity with the Catholic Church down the centuries – from the days of the Apostles to our own time. By allowing God to deepen our knowledge of himself – above all through a deeper knowledge of Jesus in whom we see ‘the human face of God’ – and by making our own the Church’s store of wisdom, accumulated down the centuries – that is the way we can, I believe, at least begin to make sense of the reality, the world, the whole cosmos where we find ourselves. If we do not grasp the truth that it is God who gives meaning to our lives, we will ultimately lack any sense of peace and security, safety and protection – the world around us will seem merely an absurd, random collection of atoms – and it will be very hard to keep despair at bay.
I have put on the cover of this week’s News-sheet, an image of Christ the Good Shepherd that is taken from an early Christian tombstone. This image, for me, says everything that needs to be said about Christ’s Priesthood and the Priesthood others of us believe we are called to live out in his name. In this image we see the Lord leading and protecting his faithful, making them safe and secure; drawing them to himself by the melody of the truth; making them lie down in safety in the shade of the Cross, the Tree of Life. To me, that is a powerful vision of what being a Priest means, after the pattern of the one Good Shepherd.