Who we are

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.

Ministry Mission

Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.

Peace, Justice, Creation

We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.

Spirituality

We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.

LITURGY NOTES FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

4th easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 22, 2018


Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land
on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.

or

I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,

the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,

and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.

  

                                A story of disasters

 

Readings

Reading 1 Acts 4:8-12

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

R. (22) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.

Reading II 1 Jn 3:1-2

Gospel Jn 10:11-18

Penitential Rite

  • Jesus, the stone rejected by the builders, has become the cornerstone for a new humanity. Jesus, have mercy.
  • Jesus shows us the love that makes us God’s own people. Christ, have mercy.
  • Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lays down his life for all. Jesus, have mercy.

or

·         Lord Jesus, you are the cornerstone: Jesus, have mercy.

·         Christ Jesus, you are the good shepherd: Christ, have mercy.

·         Lord Jesus, you lay down your life for us: Jesus, have mercy..

Opening Prayer

Shepherding God,

may we who in faith follow the call of Jesus,

attune our minds to the sounds of his voice,

and be lead in the way of courage

by caring for one another

and giving ourselves

by speaking truth to justice.

General Intercessions

Introduction:  Let us pray to our loving God who has from the beginning of time called the human race to be one. The response is: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For the leaders of nations, that they promote the freedom and dignity of all people in their care and that justice and quality of life be placed above political expediency, wealth and power: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

  • For a deeper sense of responsibility for the Earth and its environment as we celebrate Earth Day this week: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For the people of Syria who have endured years of civil war and now continue to suffer from attacks by foreign nations who justify their behaviour based on international law but failing to recognise that in alleging to protect people they kill more people: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For all parents, that guided by the light of the word, they may recognise the privilege and responsibility of working to build their families as part of the new and wider human family, we pray together: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For the people of Middle East and those who have involved themselves in the violence and conflict there, may strive for true security that comes with justice, peace and reconciliation: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For all young people who are bullied because of their social status, their gender or sexual orientation: may they continue to remain strong and aware of their dignity: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For trade unionists who raise their voices on behalf of the rights of workers and against exploitation and injustice: may they find courage and strength in their solidarity: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For the people West Papua and the Philippines: may they may encounter people dedicated to human rights who give hope, courage and leadership: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For our country that we may as a nation strive to fearlessly embrace people who come here as refugees from their countries where there is violence, starvation and suffering and receive them with open hearts: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For all teachers and educators, that through their generosity and service they might see their work as a means of building a new human society: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

·         For all us here present, that we may be shepherds to one another, responsible for each other, so that no one will be neglected through our fault, we pray together: Shepherding God, guide us in the way of love and courage.

Concluding Prayer:  Shepherding God, may your people be firmly convinced that all people are your beloved ones. May we work together so that this unity might be expressed in loving dialogue with peoples of all faiths.

Prayers of the Faithful for ANZAC Day

Introduction: Let us pray to God who desires to draw close to us in Jesus, as we in response: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

1.      That leaders of nations promote the freedom and dignity of their people, and place justice and quality of life above wealth and power, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

2.      That we may value all life on earth, seek greater understanding and solidarity among people and languages, and be at peace and friendship with all, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

3.      That people in religious and political leadership continually proclaim the good news of peace and justice without fear or compromise, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

4.      That the people of Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand on this ANZAC Day remember the those who have died in war, may we remember all who have died in all wars, and the people who continue to be affected by war, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

5.      That the voices of those who speak out for peace and solidarity among people also be listened to, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

6.      That parents, teachers and educators through their generosity and service see their work as a way of building a new human society, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

7.      For the people living in places of war and conflict may see that vengeance produces more violence, trauma and greater insecurity, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

8.      For all people, known and unknown, who witness for peace and reconciliation in conflict situations: may they not be disheartened when ridiculed by political leaders for their stand, we pray: God of the living, fill us with courage and hope.

Concluding Prayer: God of new life, listen to the prayer of your people.  May your peace and joy be with us and be the source of our hope on our journey.

Prayer over the Gifts

Shepherding God,

as Jesus has given himself to us

in these signs of bread and wine,

may we recognise his voice

in the cry of our neighbor in need

and may the continuing work of Jesus in our lives

be a source of peace to others.

Prayer after Communion

Shepherding God,

watch over the people you have liberated

by the life and death of Jesus.

May your reign of justice and love,

of true humanity and peace grow

as we walk in Jesus' presence

and shepherd the vulnerable ones

in strength and courage.

Parish Notices

April 22 International Mother Earth Day Theme: Earth Day 2018: End Plastic Pollution

"I appeal to all people everywhere to raise their voices. Speak out on behalf of this planet, our only home. Let us care for Mother Earth so she can continue to care for us as she has done for millennia’

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

International Mother Earth Day is celebrated to remind each of us that the Earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance.

It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.

International Mother Earth Day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports.

April 25 ANZAC Day Resources available to download https://www.columban.org.au/our-work/peace-ecology-and-justice/just-peace/  prepared by the Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice The Way of Peace ANZAC Centenary Edition 1915-2015.

April 26 Death of the 1000’s of people following the nuclear plant accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986) causing widespread contamination in Europe

April 26 Bishop Gerardi murdered in Guatemala in 1998

April 28 Martyrdom of St Peter Chanel, first (known) martyr from Oceania, in the New Hebrides (1841)

April 29 Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare

Opening Prayer

God of peace, God of all peoples and all nations,

source and lover of the peace that the world cannot give,

feed the flame of peace in human hearts.

You have blessed our land

and given us the power through your Spirit

for our hidden self to grow strong.

May the fierce flood of your grace sweep away all barriers and soak deep into our hearts.

Kindly hear our prayer

for those who bore witness to your fidelity

by giving their lives for those they love.

Resurrect them in our true homeland

and perfect that peace for which they longed and died. 

(from an ANZAC Day Service conducted on Christmas Island Detention Centre, 2011)

For reflection on ANZAC – remembering the dead and promoting unwar.

NEVER FORGET YOU

‘Your friends will never forget you’,

the fluttering leaflet said,

‘Your friends will never forget you’,

and then o’er the valley spread,

The wide sky cowed in sorrow,

and the eyes of the angels wept,

For a promise made by the soldiers

that their leaders never kept.

For the soldiers are there when you need ‘em,

they’re there to suffer and die,

And to make the eyes of the angels weep

in the depths of the tropical sky,

And the soldiers are there laugh it off,

and shoulder their blistering gun,

And fight anew, in the mud light glue,

and the sweat of the tropical sun.

And solders were there, and their mates were there,

their mates, the East Timorese,

Who fought and died beside them

in the night of the jungle trees,

Who fought and bled and suffered

so Australia might still be free,

And the Aussies cried, when their leaders lied,

and poisoned the Timor Sea.

‘Your friends will never forget you’,

the fluttering leaflet said,

Dropped from the biscuit bomber,

and then o’er the valley spread,

‘Your friends will never forget you’,

and the eyes of the angels wept,

For a promise made by the soldiers

that their leaders never kept.

Denis Kevans©

Prayer for Peace

Loving God, you inspire us with love for all persons

and concern for the well-being of all creation.

Give us today the strength and courage

to transform the compassion of our hearts

into acts of peace, mercy, and justice.

Forgive us for the arrogance that leads to moral blindness,

for desires for vengeance and retaliation,

and for willingness to sacrifice others for our own security and avarice.

Help us to renounce all forms of violence:

prejudice, unfair allegations, intolerance, and injury.

Give us the courage to resist threatening postures,

calls to arms, mobilization of troops and weapons, and

all actions that threaten the lives and livelihoods of innocent people.

Empower us to live out the caring presence

of the merciful and generous persons we claim to be.

Make us channels of your peace, bearers of healing,

women and men who hear and respond with alacrity

to pleas for justice in our world.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus

Who came among us to show us the way.

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

 

Light in the darkest places

Further resources

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ, former superior-general of the Society of Jesus

The Lord’s Prayer: An Adaptation

Our God who is in heaven

and in all of us here on earth;

the hungry, the oppressed, the excluded.

Holy is your name.

May your reign come and your

will be done;

in our choice to struggle with the complexities

of this world and to confront greed and

the desire for power in ourselves,

in our nation and in the global community.

Give us this day our daily bread;

bread that we are called to share,

bread that you have given us abundantly

and that we must distribute fairly,

ensuring security for all.

Forgive us our trespasses;

times we have turned away from

the struggles of other people and countries,

times we have thought only of our own security.

Lead us not into temptation;

the temptation to close our minds, ears, and eyes

to the unfair global systems that create

larger and larger gaps between

the rich and the poor; the temptation to think

it is too difficult to bring about more just alternatives.

Deliver us from evil;

the evil of a world where violence happens

in your name, where wealth for a few

is more important than economic rights for all,

where gates and barriers between people

are so hard to bring down.

May your reign come, for yours is the kingdom,

the power and the glory forever and ever.

Amen!

Center of Concern www.coc.org

How generous you are, Earth,

and how strong is your yearning for your children

lost between that which they have attained and that which they could not obtain.

We clamor and you smile; we flit but you stay!

We extract your elements to make cannons and bombs,

but out of our elements you create lilies and roses.

Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931,Lebanese Poet and Philosopher

It is too easy to find an excuse for inaction by pleading the decadence of civilization, or even the imminent end of the world. This defeatism, whether it be innate or acquired or a mere affection, seems to me the besetting temptation of our time. Defeatism is invariably unhealthy and impotent; can we also prove that it is unjustified? I think so.

Teilhard de Chardin, from Building the Earth

If the landscape reveals one certainty, it is that the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation. After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness. . . . The whole show has been on fire from the word go.

Annie Dillard

Where is the justice of political power if it executes the murderer and jails the plunderer, and then itself marches upon neighbouring lands, killing thousands and pillaging the very hills?

Kahlil Gibran

If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.

Noam Chomsky

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home’

James Madison: US fourth president’ 1751-1836

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and under nourishment.

Robert M. Hutchins

The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.

Plato

By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy - indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction

William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)

Philosophy should always know that indifference is a militant thing. It batters down the walls of cities and murders the women and children amid the flames and the purloining of altar vessels. When it goes away it leaves smoking ruins, where lie citizens bayonetted through the throat. It is not a children's pastime like mere highway robbery.

Stephen Crane

Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic, throng the coward and the meek who see the world's great anguish and its wrong, and dare not speak.

Ralph Chaplin

I live each day to kill death;

I die each day to beget life,

and in this dying unto death,

I die a thousand times and

am reborn another thousand

through that love.

Julia Esquivel

The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately,

and do not intend to change the status quo;

are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement;

rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever

and wherever they decide that their ‘vital interests’ are menaced,

and think nothing of torturing a man to death:

these people are not to be taken seriously

when they speak of the ‘sanctity’ of human life,

or the ‘conscience’ of the civilized world. 

James Baldwin, Collected Essays (1998), from chapter one of ‘The Devil Finds Work (orig. pub. 1976) page 489

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear ... Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent and labour power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its’ citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. There is no system of control with more openings, apertures, flexibilities, rewards for the chosen.

[…] There is none that disperses its’ control more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media – none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty.

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States,1981

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.

Arundhati Roy

Religion often involves goals: I am confirmed in the church; I am a Zen master; I am a rabbi. Spirituality regards life as a journey, and thus one thing becomes another, and one never arrives at an endpoint.

Religion provides comfort, but spirituality often leaves us vulnerable.

Religion may help us stay out of hell, but spirituality often evolves from having been through hell, and seeking healing.

Religion can comfort us by assuming God is responsible for us. Spirituality reminds us that we are an integral part of the universe, and therefore we must behave responsibly.

Where religion prays, ‘Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil,’ spirituality prays, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

George Vaillant

God has no other hands than ours.

Dorothee Sölle, German theologian and writer, Suffering (1973).

The first principle of nonviolent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating César Chávez

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one's weakness . . . And so, it is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.

Gandhi

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand;

it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.

Wendell Berry

The human side of religion, its creeds, rituals and instructions is a way rather than a goal. The goal is to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God. When the human side of religion becomes the goal, injustice becomes the way.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Biblical scholar

Charity consoles but does not question.  ‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint,’ said Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara. ‘And when I ask why they have no food, they call me a communist…. Unlike solidarity, which is horizontal and takes place between equals, charity is top-down, humiliating those who receive it and never challenging the implicit power relations. In the best of cases, there will be justice someday, high in heaven.  Here on earth, charity doesn’t worry injustice, it just tries to hide it.

Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World.

One cannot wage war under present conditions without the support of public opinion, which is tremendously molded by the press and other forms of propaganda.

Douglas MacArthur (1880 - 1964)

When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.

Dresden James.

The propaganda system allows the U.S. leadership to commit crimes without limit and with no suggestion of misbehavior or criminality; in fact, major war criminals like Henry Kissinger appear regularly on TV to comment on the crimes of the derivative butchers.

Edward S. Herman, political economist and author

If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.

Howard Zinn, historian and author

Understand that all battles are waged on an unconscious level before they are begun on the conscious one, and this battle is no different. The power structure wishes us to believe that the only options available are those which they present to us, we know this is simply not true, and therefore we must redefine the terrain of this conflict, and clearly, it is a conflict of worldviews and agendas.

Teresa Stover

They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.

George Orwell

Truth has to be repeated constantly, because Error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude.  In the Press and Encyclopaedias, in Schools and Universities, everywhere Error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having Majority on its side.

Goethe

People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

The truth that makes (men) free is for the most part the truth which (men) prefer not to hear.

Herbert Sebastien Agar

Because of globalisation the distance between decision-makers and those who endure the effects of those decisions has never been so great…. I believe that the only hope and the only worth globalising is dissent.

Arundhati Roy

To be sure, Christians do not openly support, ‘Blessed are the greedy.’  Nonetheless, that is the way most of us live.  Why? Quite simply, because we are members of a society, now a world-wide one, that accepts, almost without question, an economic theory that supports insatiable greed on the part of individuals.

Sallie McFague

I am for a globalisation of spirit with regard to the one important question: The need to create a new bottom line of love and caring, and to replace the old bottom line of money and power.  We can fight the globalisation of capital with the globalisation of the spirit.  The globalisation of capital can best be understood as the globalisation of selfishness.  It encourages people to think that everyone’s out for themselves and that everybody wants to accumulate as much money and power as possible

Rabbi Michael Lerner.

May the Lord bless you and keep you;

May the Lord's face shine upon you and be gracious unto you;

May God give you grace never to sell yourself short;

Grace to risk something big for something good;

Grace to remember that the world is now

too dangerous for anything but truth and

too small for anything but love;

So may God take your minds and think through them;

May God take your lips and speak through them;

May God take your hearts and set them on fire.

Through the power of God who created us,

who is redeeming us, and

whose holy presence refuses to leave us unchanged. Amen

William Sloane Coffin

Shepherding God,

Whatever we might ask for ourselves,

may we also ask for the world.

When we look at the world,

may we also see ourselves,

And may we come to know that

you reside in both us and the world, equally,

and are drawing us to a place where we may live without fear.

Amen.

Reflections on the Readings…

The theme of the Good Shepherd today receives strong emphasis in the link that Pope Francis makes between mercy and evangelization. We have seen the risen Jesus repeatedly returning to gather his scattered disciples and offering them his peace – forgiveness for their fear and cowardly flight in his time of need. With beautiful care, he calls each by name and draws them near to him. For Pope Francis, the image of lost sheep seems to describe many people today: people who have left the church or felt abandoned by it when they were struggling or have been scandalised by it. When Francis tells the leaders today to take on the smell of the sheep, he has in mind also that they should be searching for lost people, binding up their wounds and bringing them to safety. This contrasts with the impression that those who walk away or leave for whatever reason should crawl back if they want care – and then only after being reprimanded and seeking forgiveness. On this Earth Day, it is clear that our planet is also in great danger due to the human impacts on climate change, greed, putting profit above sustainability and the lives the vulnerable people from low lying atolls and islands, and seeking short term gains without care for future generations.

The image of Jesus with his disciples is one that bears wounds in his hands, feet and side. The point to risk love. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that only a suffering God can help as Thomas discovered in the upper room after the resurrection. It was only the God that mattered. Bonhoeffer said that our sacrifices bring life to the world and help us to connect with God. We cannot claim to be mature Christians and true followers of Jesus if we see suffering, pain, violence, destruction (our Earth) and do not respond.

For Pope Francis mercy comes first. After that, the need for justice or accountability. As the longing in the heart of the father in the story of the prodigal son made it possible for his son to return, so too the longing in the heart of ‘Shepherd God’ for us to return to intimacy endures and thus sends the Son to draw us in.

Today’s gospel celebrates God’s all-embracing care. It challenges us to love God and neighbour with new energy. We need to listen to the message of the good shepherd and become shepherds of the earth ourselves. The gospel contrasts the true leaders, like Jesus, who stands among us offering God’s ‘shalom’ (peace) as gift and challenge as to what are we doing to make the world look more like God’s world. The other leaders are those who are incapable of recognising or responding to the ‘wounds’ in people because they tend to be ones who drive more spikes and nails into the hands and feet of our sisters and brothers.  Jesus speaks in terms of nurturing and protection; of giving one’s life for the other which must include ‘mother’ earth. The call to care and love and show compassion cannot be spiritualised. These are always concrete and needs to take flesh. Its public face is justice. Jesus’ suffering transforms the world and models our own relationships as sacrificial and interdependent. Yet, we need to take into consideration the suffering of the non-human as well as human world if we are to be faithful to the gospel in our time. God surely cares for the baby humans and generations to come, but God also cares for the baby right whales, on the verge of extinction, and the flora and fauna endangered by human activities.

Such love always has been and continues to be controversial. We see it in Jesus’ ministry, the hospitality of the earthy church, and the reconciling love in people such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu or Bishop Juan José Gerardi who was bludgeoned to death in 1998 (April 26). He was a strong voice against the atrocities committed during the internal armed conflict. As a consequence of his outspoken opposition to innumerable human rights abuses and murders, he was forced to live in exile for a time due to many death threats. As Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala in 1984 and in 1989 he oversaw the creation of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala (ODHAG) and was committed to exposing the truth of what happened during the armed conflict. He presented his findings in a report entitled “Nunca Más” (Never Again) which was particularly damning of the military. Two days after the release of the report, Bishop Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in his home in Guatemala City.

In each instance, and in so many other examples, we witness care and protection and putting themselves on the line for others. These people might be considered heroes. These people are like shepherds who might be even considered unwise – as unwise as the shepherd chasing after a lost sheep or lamb and recklessly leaving the others.

The Good Shepherd and those who follow do not give up on anyone – not a single sheep. There is no talk of collateral damage, of ‘cutting his losses’ or of ‘tough love’ that can be applied to a rebellious child. God’s unconditional love leaps into action at the first sign of repentance. As Pope Francis has said, ‘We tire of asking for God’s forgiveness, but God never tires of offering it.’ God’s name is Mercy. God cannot do otherwise, for it is God’s very nature to love and forgive. The good shepherd’s love embraces the stranger, the lost, the lonely, the outcast, and persons of other faiths. Being one of God’s own inspires us to welcome God’s other sheep. There is no room for parochialism in God’s pasture. Other sheep are also recipients of God’s saving grace. As we listen to God’s voices coming to us through the groans of our sisters and brothers, the non-human world and that of the earth, will we respond by expanding our circle of compassion to include “strangers,” not only human strangers from other cultures and faiths; but strangers from other species, different yet intimately connected with us?

Most of us have some responsibility for others. So this gospel for all of us: parents, teachers, priests and bishops. It is for anyone who is entrusted with vulnerable people. A true shepherd goes among the sheep with humility and gentleness until he or she, in Pope Francis’ words, ‘smells like the sheep.’  When trouble comes, the shepherd does not flee or look to his own interests like the hireling. The Good Shepherd is responsible for protecting the flock from harm. How powerfully this addresses the scandal of child sexual abuse by priests or the enabling by bishops who looked the other way. How much this challenges all Christians to care for society’s neglected poor and outcast members. How powerful this address the neglect of our ‘mother’ Earth.

Jesus reveals a God without borders. This gospel is a parable of radical inclusion. This contrasts with the way we treat all that is vulnerable among us. Fear, hatred, greed are never far below the surfaced when injustice and inequality exist. , and we easily find ways to take out our anger and fear and racist attitudes on those who are not like us and cannot defend themselves.

In Jesus' time, shepherds were on the lowest rung of society. For many, to hear of a good shepherd or good Samaritan was as much a contradiction as good Muslim, good homeless person, or good Protestant or good homosexual’. Jesus’ words have great power. They call us to recover the insight that God’s gifts required no scapegoats; that community is at the heart of true resurrection.

We are invited to think about what is really important in human relationships. We must look first into the eyes of those we hate or despise, reject or condemn. We might find that there is nothing to hate or despise or reject or condemn. We might then embrace them as creatures of God, and equal partners in life's endeavors. This was Jesus’ dream – something he challenged his followers to live out as he placed himself amongst those whom contemporary society rejected: the tax collectors and sinners, prostitutes, Samaritans and shepherds. It is a contemporary message. We have a terrible teaching about women in our church that persists to the present. For some God has made a ‘deliberate’ mistake in creating gay people. The gospels calls us to reflect how much we exclude people rather than drawing them in - thus obscuring Jesus’ message. Jesus teaches us that everyone should be included amongst his own [flock]. He teaches us that God has no borders. This is the way to peace.


 

 

 

4th easter