Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 13, 2008  “Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.”

Father Felix's Homilies

Homily, April 13, 2008

Our Lord is today using the Image of the Gate and Shepherd to describe Himself and those who enter.

These are powerful images. They imply that the Church of Our Lord is sheepfold or sheep pen. And the Door/Gate to that Sheep Pen is Our Lord himself.

“I am the Gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.”

A Shepherd’s Background:

In those days shepherds lived 24 hours around the clock with their sheep and there was no shift-change. At night when the sheep were inside the enclosure, the shepherd literally laid flat right across the door/gate/entrance at night to sleep every night. This was to protect the sheep, keep them safe. It was like they were saying, “Anyone who wants o get to the sheep will have to go through me.” If there were any danger/harm (a wild beast/predator) to the sheep, it would have to upon the shepherd first before the sheep get hurt.

From this image you learn that the shepherd “laid down his life for his sheep”. If death visited his sheep, it would have to go through him first.  We also learn why it is said that Our Lord “laid down his life for us,” or that he died for us, or died so that we might live, or that by his death we have been saved.

That's why it also says, “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

From this image of the gate to the sheepfold, you get the meaning of what the Church's perennial teaching that “outside the Church, there is no salvation.”

Outside or away from the church, which is the sheepfold, they risk being without the shepherd to look after their safety and well being.  Within the church the sheep have abundant life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” “You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes.”

Within the church, the sheep are safe from dangers: “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”

You have seen the Bishops with their rod and staff. That is not for glory. It is to symbolize the reality of their role.

They are shepherds. That's how shepherds were armed to protect themselves and the sheep. Today they do that role with regards to us. Just as the shepherd aligned himself with the Gate, the Bishops align themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Gate to the Church. They lie prostrate in obedience and submission before the Gate. They identify with the Gate, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

After his resurrection, before he left this world, Our Lord commissioned Peter to feed his lambs and tend his sheep (Jn 21: 15-16).

This image also indicates that outside the Church, which has the shepherd, sheep are vulnerable to robbers, thieves and wild beasts.

Starting at the parochial level, the parish is the sheepfold. Parishioners who absent themselves from Mass where the sheep are fed and nourished through word and sacrament “should feel (consider themselves) stolen and robbed from the arms/hands of the Good Shepherd.  As they drift away from the practice of their faith, they also remove themselves from God. The degree of our closeness or farness to God is the same as our closeness or our farness from our fellow Christians/parishioners. Absentees are like the lost sheep.” (Joseph Fichtner)

Many today argue for praying to and worshipping God in their own way, appealing to their own consciences as their sole guide in the course of life. They argue that their way to God is slowed up or blocked by any man. Their attempt to reach God without his Son (the Gate) is as useless and as frustrating as a human to attempt solo flying by simply flapping their arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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