Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Good Shepherd & 1st Communion " (2018-04-22, 4th Sunday Easter)

4th SUNDAY of Easter  22 April 2018,    •• Acts 4:8-12  •• Psalm 118  •• 1 John 3:1-2  •• + John 10:11-18 ••

Title:  “The Good Shepherd: Ready. Rescues. Redirects.”

[__01__]     Ready? Are you ready?  Yes, we can see that you are and are delighted that you are ready – dressed so well for your 1st Holy Communion and with your family and friends here to pray with you.
            And, girls and boys this morning, I imagine you had to get ready TOGETHER, getting ready was not just for you alone and individually but for the whole family. Sometimes, we forget things and we all have to go back together … to be ready. In big changes, in marriage, family, we get ready together.
            And, in the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus – the Good Shepherd – is the one who is READY to receive us, who RESCUES us, and who REDIRECTS us.
[__02__]     I’d like to share a personal example of something that happened on a day off from school – when I was in high school.
            And, how I experienced this – READINESS – RESCUE – REDIRECTION.

[__03__]     1st. READY.
            In January of my junior year of high school, we had a day off from school.  I went downhill skiing with 2 friends of mine [Michael S. and Patrick T.].  Sorry, to be talking about snow again? After being dropped off at the ski area – a relatively small ski area run by Bergen County in Mahwah called Campgaw Reservation.
After a few hours of trying to keep up with them – they were much better skiers than I as you will soon learn -  I had to go to E.R. emergency room because of some acrobatic move I attempted on a little hill, a very little hill.
            I was unhappy to spend my day off from school in this manner. And, this was hardly a big mountain or difficult slope. I was not much of a skier. This was hardly Vermont or Utah. A short vertical drop [i.e., height]. No black diamonds, all GREEN / EASY slopes.       Meanwhile, I had to leave my two friends [who continued to ski] while my mom picked me up and took me to the E.R.
            My mother was, of course, very nice; the doctor also professional.  But, what consoled me that day, in addition to my mom and the doctor was a friend and coincidence. At the ER, I met one of my high school classmates. Unlike me, he was NOT a patient. He was, rather, a volunteer on an ambulance squad and had been in the ER with another patient. He was the ER when I arrived. He just happened to be there. And, while he did not expect me, he was READY for me. He was present to me.
            My classmate, John, did not “treat me”,  he did not examine me.  That’s good, because he was only in high school. But he had free time and he spent it with me. He was READY.
            And, a great gift we can give to each other is to be ready, to be “quick to listen slow to speak”(James 1:19) … to try and do what our parents ask when they ask. To remember that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)

[__04__]    Jesus the Good Shepherd is [READY], he [RESCUES] us, and [REDIRECTS]  us.

[__05__]      Jesus the Good Shepherd [RESCUES] his disciples, he feeds you and me.
            This word “rescue” makes us think of a great drama or a trauma – something meterological or seismic..
            However, Jesus rescues us by his mercy, by his forgiveness.
            And, sometimes, we are starving – very hungry – for help in our lives, and for someone to take a risk, being merciful, to take a chance on us.
            Rescues are risky and Jesus inspires us to take such risks.
            We are rescued by forgiveness. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who RESCUES - lays down his life for - his disciples, for you and me, who feeds us with his Body and Blood. This is Holy Communion.
[__06__]       Sometimes, I need mercy or rescue from something that is my own fault, my own responsibility.
            I had landed not safely on 2 skis but in the ER because I was not really being careful enough, and because I had not maintained my skis properly, et cetera, et cetera …using the wrong equipment and fell to the ground. Not a pretty picture. My responsibility.
            Jesus the Good Shepherd rescues us with mercy not not because of our great TALENTS (SKIING, BALANCE, OR OTHERWISE) but actually because of our TRESPASSES, our SINS. He loves us, forgives us.
            He also [REDIRECTS] us.
 [__07_]        I wonder what my high school classmate – whom I met at the ER is doing now… does he work in medicine or healing?  He had a wonderful bedside manner.  He was simply present to me.
            And, not only was it a consolation to experience my classmate’s, John’s,  presence in the ER to but also to share the good news of his presence when I returned to high school that he had been there with me. It was good news to share, of why I was more calm, tranquil, all of this at the EMERGENCY ROOM! So, I was “redirected” to share that Good News not only with the 2 friends I skied with but with other classmates. And, I remember it felt great to share what had happened.
            Sometimes we are rescued not with 9-1-1 but simply with with mercy and forgiveness. And, we are called to share this Good News with others.
I suggest my friend’s kindness at the E.R. was also a REDIRECTION of Jesus to me– calling me . When I was 16, I did not think I was going to be a priest.  But, when I later did think about it, this particular experience was very significant.
As a priest, I try to be present to people in both sorrow and joy,  which includes visits to hospital, to be present in this way, to imitate the Christlike example of my friend at he ER to me.
So, to you -- our fathers and mothers -- I encourage you to help your children to reflect on – and pray about -- their joys and sorrows on moments of consolation.
These moments will shape them, help them to grow and understand later what it means – themselves to be a mother, father, wife or husband, to be a nurse or a doctor, to be a priest to serve the Church and to listen – in all these ways to Christ the Good Shepherd.

                        Girls and boys – God loves you, your mother loves you, your father loves you, your grandparents. Even if they are not present today, they love you and are praying for you.  Jesus the Good Shepherd loves you, the community of Our Lady of Lourdes loves you, and is grateful for your dedication and prayerfulness today and we look forward to praying with you and growing with you for many Sundays and years to come.
            Jesus, the Good Shepherd, [READY] to receive us, [RESCUES] us with mercy, and [REDIRECTS]  us to green pasture and restful waters.


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