Fourth Sunday of Easter 2010; May 15, 2011:
I want to share with you three main topics: St Isidore, something concerning the Domestic Church, and the meaning of the Good Shepherd.
You will note that we have a carving of St. Isidore that I carved in 1981. At the time I wished to show respect to our central Minnesota farmers, the best farmers in all the world. Even so, Isidore being Spanish would not have been dressed in overalls. But if he was to live in our day this is the way he would have been dressed in Minnesota: overalls. I had to make special tools to make the transition from Spanish garb to overalls that looked like proper clothing. This day would have been his day except that it fell on Sunday. However I feel it necessary to respond at least briefly to his memory.
He was a day laborer working for wealthy landowners just outside of Madrid. He was noted for his charity and prayer life. When accused of not devoting enough time to his job, the landowner saw a team of white oxen guided by an angle to help him plow. Another time, as the story goes, he was to bring a sack of grain to the mill for grinding but seeing birds hungry along the way couldn’t help but to feed them some of the grain. However, when the grain was milled he was able to return with a full sack of flour. Being as how all of us here are farmers or sons and daughters of a farmer, it would be well for all us to dig deeper in the life of Isidore and his wife. Which leads me into the second topic of my concerns for today: and that is the Domestic Church, of which Isidore and his wife are a good example.
You are the Domestic Church! Every family here in this church are members of the universal Church, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Having said that, and understanding, that we are never the less preeminently members of a family, a Domestic Church. So much so, did you know I can not Baptize your baby without your consent! Did you know that unless the Domestic Church is active and productive in the area of parish life, you wouldn’t have a parish. Did you know that unless the Domestic Church is striving for holiness, there wouldn’t be a parish church worthy of your time!
Ideally the family is made up of father, mother and children. The father as head, mother as heart and the children the product of a Loving relationship. I say ideally, fully aware that nature can at times be very hard on the ideal: but we are called to be Domestic church, while at the same time called to be a part of the Christian community, and in our case the Catholic Church. I’m sure you can understand that in the time we have, that this is about all we can handle. But I have one more question and then we will move on to Shepherding: What is the purpose of having and raising children in the Domestic Church. Yes! you have heard me say time and again, to know God, to Love God, to serve God, that we may be happy with Him for ever in Heaven. There is second part to the same question, is this an effort to populate earth or to populate heaven? When was the last time that question was put to you? Or maybe it never was. This heavenly journey is not solo. For the most part the very way of the family is the way of it’s members, the Domestic Church, the Parish Church, then, comes together in this church to fulfill the will of God, while receiving assurance, and enlightenment from our Shepherds.
The image of the Good Shepherd is the most treasured of the all the images we of have of God. And we see in it so much of what we hope to find in God. The Good Shepherd moves His flock in search of water and grass according the seasons. Pasturing in the wilderness is a 24/7 effort to keep the sheep from death due to lack of water and grass. Also, the shepherd must protect the sheep from all danger. A lost sheep is serious matter, and one to be avoided at all costs.
In John 10, Jesus identifies Himself as the true shepherd of the sheep, who recognize His voice and follow Him. The shepherd enters the sheepfold through the gate, while thieves enter surreptitiously, because they come to steal and kill. Jesus identifies Himself as the gate of the sheep, because He represents the only proper access. In short, the shepherd provides for the sheep’s every need. The sheep of the Good Shepherd “shall not want.” Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was to die a martyr for his people, said: “I want to repeat to you what I said once before: the shepherd does not want security while they give no security to the flock.”
Some would say that the sheep never had it better, and that is true. Jesus said the reason He came into the world was to provide His sheep with all they needed. “I came,” He said, “that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Abundance is exactly what many people think they need. Abound and abundance sound like quantitative words. And who would not want to abound in good things?
So, what are the good things Christ offers in abundance? What has been revealed to us concerning the substance and essence of life? John, in the prologue of his Gospel, says that the Word that became flesh and dwelled among us was “full of grace and truth.” “The early Church regarded that life in its entirety as the word which God had spoken when He visited and redeemed His people.” Doesn’t it follow, then, that what we have seen in Jesus is the life God wants for each of us? Abundant life is precisely what we see in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
(‘Thank you’ to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here — Brian H. Gill.)