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Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2023

Watch this homily! (Begins at 39:50)

     Each year on this Sunday, the Church holds up for us the figure of the Good Shepherd from John’s gospel – the Good Shepherd who tends his sheep and cares for them, calls each by name, and leads them into safe, life-giving pastures. The sheep entrust their lives to this shepherd and follow him wherever he goes. Jesus, of course, is the perfect embodiment of that good shepherd. He is also the Gate into the sheepfold - the one who at risk of his life, sleeps each night across the entrance to the sheepfold in order to keep the sheep safe from predators, thieves and robbers. Shepherd and gate, Jesus is both.

     I find it worth noting just where the evangelist has placed this particular parable in his gospel. I doubt it was an accident that he placed it right between two great stories we heard on recent Lenten Sundays: the story of the healing of the man born blind and the story of the raising of Lazarus. It’s as if the evangelist is saying, ‘if you want to see the Good Shepherd in action, take a look at these two stories!’

     And now, let me do my best to place the parable in this moment in time because the gospels, while written in the past, come to life in the now: when we read them in light of our own lives, our own experience.

     Often, at Easter or at Christmas, people send me greeting cards with the image of the Good Shepherd on them and words like, ‘To a good shepherd at Easter - or at Christmas.’ It’s a very thoughtful message, an affirming one, and a challenging one. And I know why people send it because priests are called to be shepherds. But, you know what? Priests do not have a corner on the ‘shepherding market.’ We don’t. Not by a long shot!

     Think, for instance, of the many lay ministers in the church who have answered God’s call and who give their lives so very generously to the church, serving on parish pastoral teams like ours, using their gifts to walk with fellow parishioners and to help parishes come alive. They are, each of them, good shepherds.

     And so are the many volunteers who share their time and talent. I think of our lay catechists who teach our children, and of our liturgical ministers who help us pray: altar servers, readers, ushers and greeters, choristers, Communion ministers. I think of our Pastoral Vision Council and Finance Council members. And I also think of parishioners who welcome migrants and refugees – some of them into their own homes, and tutors who teach English to new arrivals in our country;  Cathedral Kitchen, Sunday Breakfast, Solanus Casey volunteers, and St. Vincent de Paul Society members. I could go on. But tell me, which one of those generous volunteers is not a good shepherd!

     And then, I have to say that parents come quickly to mind when I think about who are good shepherds. Parents, (grandparents, too), like the Good Shepherd of the parable, know their children, lovingly call them by name, and do everything humanly possible to keep their children happy, healthy, and safe from harm. They work endlessly and sacrifice greatly to build a trusting, loving relationship with their children, helping them grow into the unique, gifted individuals they are. And they lay down their lives for their kids. Literally. There’s nothing parents won’t do for their children. Parents are good shepherds in every sense of the word!

     And I’m not naïve: I grew up in a family, a really good family. But I know it’s not all sweetness and light: that parent-child relationships can be strained at times. With all of life’s challenges and it endless demands, that’s inevitable. But, at best, love wins out, and who is more loving than a good and loving parent? Who is more a good shepherd?
There are others, too, who deserve to be called good shepherds. Think, for instance, of teachers who day-in and day-out devote their lives to the kids in their classrooms, coming to know them and care for them, challenging them, opening up new vistas for them, putting up with their antics, tolerating their temperaments. Teachers are good shepherds.
So are first responders who daily put themselves in harm’s way for our safety, and people in the military who courageously put their lives at risk in defense of our freedom. And so are all the people in the medical profession who enter ‘the sheepfold’ each day to serve the sick and the suffering. Good shepherds they surely are!

     As are all the dedicated, often unsung care-givers who, day after day, quietly, lovingly and generously devote themselves to serving the needs of elderly family members or people with disabilities and special needs. Caregivers are living images of the Good Shepherd.

     My friends in Christ, good shepherds are all around us: they are in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and they’re here at church. They’re everywhere. That’s because the risen Christ is everywhere, and they make him visible and tangible.
As we continue this celebration of the Eucharist, let us join with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in giving thanks to God for all the shepherds in our lives, asking God to give them wisdom, courage, and strength as they – in a thousand different ways – lay down their lives for the flock!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303