4th Sunday of Easter | 25 April 2021
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
~ John 10:11
Brothers & Sisters,
Happy Good Shepherd Sunday! Tending to sheep or a herdsman is certainly not as common a profession as in biblical times. So, most likely, our understanding of Shepherd’s way of life comes from the many Scripture references, including Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want”). Jesus indeed exhibits the best characteristics of shepherds: caring, protective, alert, diligent, and loyal. Our Lord willingly died for us, so we would never be apart from his loving care.
Whenever I think of Shepherds, a classic Looney Tune cartoon I’d watched as a kid comes to mind. For those not familiar, the comical hijinks star Sam, a sheepdog, and Ralph, the wolf. I’ve loved to watch them both “clock” in or out with an old-school analog time clock keeping track (and yes, in my first job, we had a similar time clock). Despite Ralph and Sam’s daily escapades involving the wolf trying to steal a sheep and the dog outwitting his attempts every time, at the end of the day, they’d exchange pleasantries as they “clocked out” of work.
In reality, though, there is no “clocking out.” If we are to imitate Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we are called to stay on the clock, watching over, caring for, and protecting our flock. This level of care can be overwhelming, especially if we feel like we are alone or fail to recognize the other ways to help than acting as a shepherd or sheep. The one role we should never take up is that of the wolf, though, sadly, there are individuals among us whose aim is to take advantage and think little of hurting another for their benefit. Take heart; our Lord Jesus never leaves us to go it alone. He has given a share of his ministry of shepherding to many among his disciples.
Firstly, yes, our bishops are called to shepherd the flock. The Ordinary is the chief shepherd and assumes tremendous responsibility. Sadly, scandals involving credibly accused bishops, including those who failed to protect the flock, as well as financial mismanagement and perceived influence of money, have eroded trust.
How can this trust be restored? I would encourage everyone to listen to our bishop, Archbishop Lori, and his auxiliaries, Bishops Madden, Parker, and Lewandowski. We are fortunate to have leaders who don’t shy away from difficult conversations or address ongoing challenges. While the pandemic has tested our patience, and we might struggle to understand certain decisions. Our bishops have listened to those in leadership and faithful-at-large while holding firm to the difficult choices they have had to make. At the same time, they remain committed to providing direct access to sacraments, especially the Eucharist, with a heart to feed the faithful. Like our bishops, priests work hard as good shepherds to restore trust by witnessing their lives through their vocation. Because priests often have a more familiar relationship with their parishioners, we have had many opportunities to establish trust by creating a safe environment on our campus and in our community, especially for children and the vulnerable. Fully aware that this year of COVID will likely go down as a historical anomaly. In all of this, we miss and long to see those parishioners and families who have not yet been present on our campus this year!
We are abundantly blessed that deacons are also called to care for the flock. With the diaconate restored beyond a”stepping stone” to the priesthood, deacons’ involvement in parish life and ministry is becoming more and more prevalent —what a blessing! In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the number of active deacons in ministry has recently exceeded that of priests. Deacons often are married with children, maintain a professional career, and bring a plethora of expertise to their ministries because of these experiences. Deacons certainly share in the ministry of Christ the Good Shepherd, preaching and teaching the faithful, baptizing, as well as presiding at weddings and funerals.
Please keep in your prayer those discerning a vocation to the diaconate. The Archdiocese is currently forming a new class of candidates (with applications due May 1!). The Class of 2021 is in their last month of formation as they prepare to be ordained on May 22nd. Please keep in your prayers our fellow OLPH parishioner, Roch Kallmyer, and his peers: Mark, Tom, Karl, Bill, Howard, John, Mike, Joe, Danny, Jim, Mike, and Dan. Moreover, pray for all our seminarians, including Deacon Scott Kady, who will be ordained a priest this June, and five to be ordained transitional deacons on May 15th.
Of course, the Church also has a great appreciation of religious and lay faithful, who also share in the ministry of the Good Shepherd. Parents, along with grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, and family in general, have an essential calling as teachers of the faith and ongoing care for each other. Many married and single men and women also engage in diverse ministries, sharing in the work of Christ and by such ministry spread the faith and care for the Church. Thank you! To be a good and healthy Church, we have to be aware and highlight the importance of each of these vocations. May we all have the grace of God to remain steadfast in our vocations – for we are all given a share in caring for the flock.
May the Lord help all our youth and young adults to hear his voice in their lives and be confident in the vocations to which the Lord calls them. Also, please keep our Bishops and priests and all the shepherds of our faith communities in your ongoing prayers!
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Rev. Michael S. Triplett