April 21, 2024

Dear Parishioners of Saint Polycarp,

The Gospel for this Fourth Sunday of Easter begins with a beautiful depiction of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd.” And following this beautiful depiction are required responsibilities of a good shepherd that Jesus wants each of us to fulfill. Jesus declares, “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [A good shepherd is not a hired man who works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. A good shepherd knows his sheep and his know him].”

In the Sunday Preaching, Father Miller expounds on the role of a good shepherd in the following words:

In ancient Christian art the most beloved image of Christ was that of the Good Shepherd. Even today, though most of us live in a society in which shepherding is mostly a thing of the past, we find solace and comfort in thinking of Christ as our Good Shepherd.

It is pleasant on a spring day to picture an idyllic scene of Christ with his sheep, resting in a pleasant pasture with a bubbling brook nearby. Perhaps we yearn to turn aside from all the hectic activities of modern life to enjoy the serenity and peace which such a picture suggests.

But the peace of this scene is soon to be disturbed. An intruder silently approaches the sheep. He is a wolf. On many occasions he has succeeded in snatching a lamb in his teeth, while the rest of the flock scatters. Now he awaits his opportunity. He has learned to be wary of the shepherd, and so his eyes scan the scene to see where the shepherd is. He hopes the shepherd is absent or asleep, or that he is actually a hireling, someone who works only for pay, and who has no concern for the sheep (p. 178).

With the above imagery, Father Miller challenges us to bring the scene of a wolf preying on its target to our modern time: “Will the vicious wolf succeed in our own times? Will he snatch away young people from the Church? Will he devour Catholics who are discouraged because no one seems to care about them? Will he scatter the people of a parish because contentious bickering, harmful gossip, and disruptive recalcitrance make them open to the fatal attacks of evil? The answer is ours” (l. cit).

Often times, when we listen to the message of this Gospel, we equate or limit the image of the good shepherd to sacred ministers of the Church, such as religious men and women, priests, and bishops. However, we forget that this Gospel message is meant for all of us, because we are called to be good shepherds to one another. We have responsibilities toward each other because it has pleased God to save us and make us holy, not merely as individuals without any mutual bonds, but by forming us into a single people (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 9).

A beautiful teaching from the Church regarding responsibilities of being a good shepherd is spoken at a baptism of children, when a sacred minister of the Church asks the parents and the godparents these questions: “[Parents] ~ you have asked to have your children baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” And to the godparents, the sacred minister asks this question: “[Godparents] ~ are you ready to help these parents in their duty as Christian mothers and fathers?”

I pray that as we hear the Gospel message on the Good Shepherd we also live out this message faithfully, so that when we see God face to face we can confidently and proudly say to Jesus: “Yes, I have lived out and fulfilled my duty as a good shepherd to my family, my parish, and my community.”

May God, through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, and the patron Saint Polycarp, bless you and your family always.

Father Viet Peter Ho

Pastor

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