Preacher’s Sketchbook: Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)
April 25, 2012
Each week, a Dominican member of the Provincial Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.
Lumen Gentium, 6
Often the Church has also been called the building of God. The Lord Himself compared Himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles, and from it the Church receives durability and consolidation. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which dwells His family; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This Temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Holy Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. John contemplates this holy city coming down from heaven at the renewal of the world as a bride made ready and adorned for her husband.
Dominus Iesus, 13
The thesis which denies the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ is also put forward. Such a position has no biblical foundation. In fact, the truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord and only Savior, who through the event of his incarnation, death and resurrection has brought the history of salvation to fulfillment, and which has in him its fullness and center, must be firmly believed as a constant element of the Church’s faith. The New Testament attests to this fact with clarity: “The Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14); “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In his discourse before the Sanhedrin, Peter, in order to justify the healing of a man who was crippled from birth, which was done in the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 3:1-8), proclaims: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). St. Paul adds, moreover, that Jesus Christ “is Lord of all”, “judge of the living and the dead”, and thus “whoever believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:36 Acts 10:42-43).
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q2, A7
Whether it is necessary for the salvation of all, that they should believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ? I answer that as stated above, the object of faith includes, properly and directly, that thing through which man obtains beatitude. Now the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion is the way by which men obtain beatitude; for it is written (Acts 4:12): “There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.” Therefore belief of some kind in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation was necessary at all times and for all persons, but this belief differed according to differences of times and persons. The reason of this is that before the state of sin, man believed, explicitly in Christ’s Incarnation, in so far as it was intended for the consummation of glory, but not as it was intended to deliver man from sin by the Passion and Resurrection, since man had no foreknowledge of his future sin. He does, however, seem to have had foreknowledge of the Incarnation of Christ, from the fact that he said (Gen 2:24): “Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” of which the Apostle says (Eph 5:32) that “this is a great sacrament . . . in Christ and the Church,” and it is incredible that the first man was ignorant about this sacrament. But after sin, man believed explicitly in Christ, not only as to the Incarnation, but also as to the Passion and Resurrection, whereby the human race is delivered from sin and death: for they would not, else, have foreshadowed Christ’s Passion by certain sacrifices both before and after the Law, the meaning of which sacrifices was known by the learned explicitly, while the simple folk, under the veil of those sacrifices, believed them to be ordained by God in reference to Christ’s coming, and thus their knowledge was covered with a veil, so to speak. And, as stated above, the nearer they were to Christ, the more distinct was their knowledge of Christ’s mysteries. After grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above. As to other minute points in reference to the articles of the Incarnation, men have been bound to believe them more or less explicitly according to each one’s state and office.
Bl. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae
Eternal life is therefore the life of God himself and at the same time the life of the children of God. Ast hey ponder this unexpected and inexpressible truth which comes to us from Godin Christ, believers cannot fail to be filled with ever new wonder and unbounded gratitude. They can say in the words of the Apostle John: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God;and so we are. … Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2). Here the Christian truth about life becomes most sublime. The dignity of this life is linked not only to its beginning, to the fact that it comes from God, but also to its final end, to its destiny of fellowship with God in knowledge and love of him. In the light of this truth, St. Irenaeus qualifies and completes his praise of man: “the glory of God” is indeed, “man, living man”, but “the life of man consists in the vision of God”. Immediate consequences arise from this for human life in its earthly state, in which, for that matter, eternal life already springsforth and begins to grow. Although man instinctively loves life because it is agood, this love will find further inspiration and strength, and new breadth and depth, in the divine dimensions of this good. Similarly, the love which every human being has for life cannot be reduced simply to a desire to have sufficient space for self-expression and for entering into relationships with others; rather, it develops in a joyous awareness that life can become the “place” where God manifests himself, where we meet him and enter into communion with him. The life which Jesus gives in no way lessens the value of our existence in time; it takes it and directs it to its final destiny: “I am the resurrection and the life … whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26)
Dom Prosper Gueranger, Good Shepherd Sunday
Jesus was one day, previous to His Passion, in the country of Cesarea Philippi; His Apostles were standing around him, and he began questioning them about what they thought of Him. One of them, Simon the son of John or Jonas, and brother to Andrew, answered in the name of all, and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God (St. Matth. xvi. 16)! Jesus expressed His pleasure at receiving Simon’s testimony, which was not the result of any human knowledge, but the expression of a divine revelation there and then granted to him; and He immediately told this Apostle, that from that time forward he was to be, not Simon, but Peter (which means a Rock). Christ had been spoken of by the Prophets under the name of a Rock, or Stone (Is. xxviii. 16); by thus solemnly conferring upon His Disciple a title so characteristically that of the Messias, Jesus would give us to understand, that Simon was to have a something in common with Himself, which the other Apostles were not to have. After saying to him: Thou art Peter, (that is, thou art the Rock,) He added: And upon this Rock I will build My Church (St. Matth. xvi. 18). *** The Disciples respectfully listen to this dialogue; they see plainly, that, here again, Peter is made an object of Jesus’ partiality, and is receiving a something which they themselves are not to receive. They remember what happened at Cesarea Philippi, and how, ever since that day, Peter has been treated by their Master with especial honour. And yet, there is another privilege or office to be added to this of feeding the Lambs. A third time, then, Jesus says to Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? This is too much for the Apostle. These three questionings of his love bring to his mind the three denials he had so sinfully made to the servant girl of Caiphas. He feels the allusion to his recent infidelity; and this third time, his answer implies a prayer for forgiveness; his reply bespeaks humility rather than assurance: Lord! says he, thou knowest all things! Thou knowest that I love thee! Then, making Peter’s authority complete, Jesus pronounces these imposing words: Feed my Sheep (St. John, xxi. 17)! Here, then, we have Peter made Shepherd by Him, Who says of himself: I am the good Shepherd. Firstly, our Lord gives His Apostle, and twice over, the care of His Lambs; this does not make him the complete Shepherd: but when He bids him feed His Sheep too, the whole Flock is subjected to his authority. Now, therefore, let the Church show herself, let her take her stand, let her spread herself through the length and breadth of the nations; Simon, the son of John, is proclaimed its visible Head. Is the Church a Building? he is the Foundation-Stone, the Petra, the Rock. Is she a Kingdom? he holds the Keys, that is, the sceptre. Is she a Fold? he is the Shepherd.
Bl. Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis
The internal principle, the force which animates and guides the spiritual life of the priest inasmuch as he is configured to Christ the head and shepherd, is pastoral charity, as a participation in Jesus Christ’s own pastoral charity, a gift freely bestowed by the Holy Spirit and likewise a task and a call which demand a free and committed response on the part of the priest. The essential content of this pastoral charity is the gift of self, the total gift of self to the Church, following the example of Christ. “Pastoral charity is the virtue by which we imitate Christ in his self – giving and service. It is not just what we do, but our gift of self, which manifests Christ’s love for his flock. Pastoral charity determines our way of thinking and acting, our way of relating to people. It makes special demands on us.”
St. Augustine, On John
At present, he who seeketh his own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s, in order not to lose what he follows after, the advantages of human friendship, and incur the annoyances of human enmity, keeps quiet and does not administer rebuke. See, the wolf has caught a sheep by the throat; the devil has enticed a believer into adultery: thou holdest thy peace-thou utterest no reproof. O hireling, thou hast seen the wolf coming and hast fled!
Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of 24 April 2005
The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance. The symbol of the lamb also has a deeper meaning. In the Ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people. This was an image of their power, a cynical image: to them their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished. When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, himself became a lamb, he stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed. This is how he reveals himself to be the true shepherd: “I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep”, Jesus says of himself (John 10:14f). It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God’s sign: he himself is love. How often we wish that God would make show himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.