Sunday, May 3, 2009  Today, we ask the Good Shepherd to help us because He always knows us and loves us.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fr. Ed Oen

Artists from all over the world have contributed many versions of pictures of Jesus. They are different in many respects and they vary from previous generations, primarily those of the second century.  The pictures and statues show a Jesus who was laughing, while others show his silence. I read a book years ago entitled “The Joys of Christ.” It contained seven different paintings of Christ. One of the pictures has Jesus dancing at the wedding feast of Canaan. There Jesus was dancing. He and other men on one side were doing dances similar to some of what our young people do today – something of a Jewish dance.  But we hardly ever think of Christ as dancing.

How did the drawings by the artists in the second century contribute to the ‘art’ of Christ? Well, they especially zeroed in on the Good Shepherd. We find that people of that time made drawings on pottery, candlesticks and walls. The artists of the second century painted a picture of the Good Shepherd on the walls of the Catacomb of St. Priscilla and that can still be seen today.

The Catacombs of Rome are ancient burial place under Rome. There are seven layers or floors and some have only been discovered in recent decades. These are places where Christians were buried but also pagan and Jewish burials.  These are important to the study of Christian art where, in the St. Priscilla, you can see a fresco of Jesus depicted as the Good Shepherd. In the second century, here is Jesus carrying a Lamb on His shoulders.

In the gospel this morning, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and they know me.”  That word ‘know’ in Greek, means ‘to love.’ They love me; I love them. It means there is an intimate understanding about someone. We say today that we ‘know’ someone – but that does not necessarily mean we ‘love’ them.  But when Jesus used the word, He meant “I love them.”

The Good Shepherd shows His love and concern for us in many ways. He gives us guiding word through the sacred scripture. He challenges us to grow in love. He shows us the way to the Father. He assures us that He loves us. What we find in scripture though is that Lord is not always encouraging us – sometimes He challenges us to make some changes in our lives. The Good Shepherd tries to help us understand what is needed in our lives. He encourages us to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. He counsels us when we stray away from Him; He gives us forgiveness through the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Jesus has appointed other shepherds. The Pope is the visible shepherd of the Church; Jesus is the invisible shepherd. The Pope is the visible shepherd of the institutional church. There are bishops and priests and deacons. They are all pastors.  The word ‘pastor’ in Latin means ‘shepherd.’

Today we are also observing World Day of Vocations to Religious Life. The United States only had an ample number of priests was from 1940 to 1960. Other priests came from other countries. I belong to a community, which was founded by German missionaries. In 1840, Germans were pushing Shawnee Indians from Ohio to now what is Shawnee Mission, Kansas. So now you understand how Shawnee Mission came about – it was because Germans in Ohio were settling that land in the 1840’s. So, we have foreign missionaries. Today, additional vocations come form Africa and India. Fr. Kirity told me that in one parish in India, there are 600 families – and they have 46 seminarians!  This morning, I encourage young people to think about the religious life; answer the call if God is calling you.

Parents and grandparents are also shepherds. You have to work to be good shepherds to pass the faith on to your flock. It’s more important for grandparents to tell their grandchildren about the Good Shepherd rather than telling their children. You pray the Rosary. Some of you come to pray at the beautiful grotto. That has really come to light recently thanks to those who planted the new trees, the new sidewalks and platform, the other plants and other things out there. It’s a beautiful place to come to visit and to pray a prayer. Pray, “Virgin Mary, pray for us; help us that we may someday have a resident priest right here in St. Benedict.”

Children need our support and understanding and help and we have to look to the Good Shepherd who we can imitate as an example. Grandparents can be Good Shepherd to their flock. You who are adults can be Good Shepherds to those having difficulties. Today, we ask the Good Shepherd to help us because He always knows us and loves us.

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