Good Shepherd Sunday

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/04/24 at 12:00 AM


In addition to being the 4th Sunday of Easter, today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, whom I’ve mentioned a number of times in homilies over the years.
While we do not have a statue of St. Catherine, we do have an image of her in the first window on the left side of the church. As an aside, I can tell you that it’s because of St. Catherine that we have our beautiful stained glass windows.
Many of you may remember the Sunday 4 years ago when I announced that we had the opportunity to buy these windows. Our architect had found them and thought they’d be perfect for our church, but we had to move swiftly as another church was interested in them.
The problem was that we didn’t have the money to buy them, and we had to make a decision on the windows without having the necessary monies on hand – and without even seeing them in person. All we would get to see were pictures of the windows.
While waiting for the pictures to come, I prayed to our Lord and told Him that if there were an image of St. Catherine somewhere in the windows, I’d take that as a sign that He wanted us to buy them. Once I saw the pictures and knew she was in the windows, I began praying to St. Catherine for the necessary cash! Obviously St. Catherine answered the prayer!
I bring up St. Catherine again today because of the example she provides us with her single- minded devotion to Christ. From the time she was 6 years old and had her first vision of Jesus, St. Catherine was completely devoted to Him – even bearing His wounds with her stigmata.
Despite the very considerable pressure from her family to marry, despite the persecutions she faced from so many others for her work, St. Catherine never consciously deviated from following God’s will to the best of her abilities. She stayed united to Him throughout her life.
St. Catherine knew that there was no middle ground between serving Christ and serving the devil. She understood well the dangers of vice and the slippery slope of sin it engenders. Her writings reveal that she was ever conscious of avoiding giving our Lord the least offense.
Sadly, so many of us today do not take sin seriously. As St. John Vianney once said, “we play with sin.” This is because we simply don’t realize how terrible and how offensive to our Lord even the smallest venial sin is.
And so many of us carelessly commit sins, excusing ourselves because we think they don’t really matter much. But my brothers and sisters, this is so terribly dangerous, for willfully giving in to sin – even venial ones – makes us playthings of the devil.
In the Gospels [cf. Matt 12:30] Jesus tells us that we are either for Him or against Him. When we sin, even in a venial way, we set ourselves against our Lord. But if we wish to be saved, then we must remain with Him by remaining within the safe pastures of His Body, the Church.
For to be a Christian, to be a follower of Christ, we must be united to His one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
Our readings today follow this same line of thought. In the first reading, St. Peter makes it clear we must choose for Christ, who is the stone rejected by the builders, rather than be like the chief priests and elders of the Jewish people who rejected Him, for there is no other name under Heaven by which we can be saved.
Thus we must entrust ourselves to Him, following Him just as sheep follow the voice of their shepherd. For as our Gospel passage for today attests, our Lord is not simply any shepherd; He is the Good Shepherd! And our salvation – not to mention our peace and our joy in this life – is only found in being one of the sheep of His flock.
We become one of the Lord’s sheep through our baptism. But after baptism we must continue choosing to be a member of His flock by humbling obeying Him and the teachings of His Catholic Church, which is the instrument through which God saves mankind.
Unfortunately, there are many wolves in the world today that would lead us sheep astray from the true and fertile pastures of Holy Mother Church.
Not only are there false religions and ideologies that pervert, distort, or obscure the teachings of God’s one true Church, but there is the ever present problem of rampant materialism that tells us that happiness is only found in the consumption of created things.
But perhaps the worst wolf of all is that selfish form of pride that tempts us to believe we can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, that we can create our own truth by which to live. Ultimately, this wolf in sheep’s clothing leads us to the belief that we don’t need God at all.
This is a terrible lie.
As the Responsorial Psalm tells us today, it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trustmen. For as St. Peter reminds us, there is no salvation in anyone other than our Lord.
This is a truth that St. Catherine and all of the saints understood so well. Indeed, all of thesaints attest by the way they lived their earthly lives that to live one’s life for anyone or
anything other than our Lord is an utter absurdity and a ticket to hell.

And so it is that our choice for or against Jesus Christ is the most fundamental choice each ofus has to make in this life, and herein lays the mystery of human freedom.
God created us to love Him, but there is no true love without the freedom to choose. Thus it is that our Lord gave us this capacity to choose. What we must understand is that this capacity tochoose for or against God is nothing less than the capacity to determine our eternal destiny.
Simply put, we choose heaven or hell by how well we conform ourselves to Christ in this life. The mystery of human freedom is that anyone would ever choose hell over heaven. But somedo!
Our Catholic faith teaches us that hell exists, and I think it’s irrational to believe that hell existsand that no one is in it!
But let us be clear about one very important point: the choice for heaven or hell is not a one-time event in our life. We make this choice so very gradually by every moral decision we
make – even the small ones.

Indeed, Heaven is won or lost not so much in the big decisions of life, but rather in the littleday-to-day decisions we make. Every act of the will by which we seek to follow our Lord and
His Church is a step toward Heaven.

Conversely every sin, no matter how big or small, every act of defiance against our Lord, andevery act of disobedience to the teachings of the Church He founded, is a step away from our
Lord and heaven, and a step toward hell.

Truly, as a priest there is nothing sadder to me than seeing a Catholic defiantly or even casuallyturning away from the Church and her teachings. This is because we Catholics have the extraordinary grace and privilege of knowing the fullness of God’s truth through the teachings of the Church.
Truly, there is no salvation outside the Church. To live as if there is, is to risk your soul.
Of course in making our daily decisions to sin or not sin, we must fight our passions, ourprejudices, and our pride. We must fight against the spirit of this world, which constantly encourages us to rebel against the ways of God in order to devote ourselves more fully to the false consolations of mammon. At times we must even fight the devil himself.
But our good Lord does not leave us alone in this fight! He is our good shepherd, and He lays down His life for His sheep. Not only has He given us the teachings of the Church to guide us as make decisions, but He also gives us the grace of the sacraments, which strengthen us and conform us ever more closely to Him.
And when we fail, He gives us His mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation – no matter how serious our sins may be. Truly, if you make it a habit to go to confession regularly, you will be saved! But if you don’t use this sacrament, your chances for salvation are iffy.
While our Lord desires us to be perfect, living a perfect life here on earth is not a requirement for salvation. But loving our Lord by being humble obedient is. Being contrite for our sins and confessing our sins is.
Just as the chief priests and elders of the Jewish people rejected him 2000 years ago, our Lord continues to be rejected by our world today. But as Catholics we know that despite the rejection of the world, Jesus is Good Shepherd who alone can lead us to eternal life.
And being one of His sheep is a choice we make every day, most especially in the little decisions to either sin or not sin, to follow His will or turn away from it.
So, brothers and sisters, let us choose to be one of the Lord’s sheep by always choosing to be faithful children of Holy Mother Church. Let us strive to avoid even the smallest of sins so that we may always be pleasing to Him in every way.
May St. Catherine of Siena always intercede for us.

29 April 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

You can go directly to his homilies:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: