4th Sunday of Easter B - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2015

Jesus made it clear that he was the shepherd. Who are the sheep? Is it we Catholics? Or, perhaps, other non-Catholic, but Christian, believers? What about non-Christians? It is an important question. Jesus said, after all, “I lay down my life for my sheep”. 

Jesus referred also to sheep belonging to other flocks, and cared for by other shepherds, sheltering in the safety of the one local sheepfold every night. Did he see himself as ultimately responsible for them too? It would seem so. Certainly, he spoke of “my own sheep”: “I know my own and my own know me”. But then he went on to say, “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well.” So there are sheep of his that he knows but which do not yet know him. Perhaps we Catholics are not so special!

Jesus concluded today’s passage by claiming, “The Father loves me because I lay down my life …” and added, “This is the command I have been given by my Father.” We know that the Father’s concern is for the whole world. We are familiar with the passage: “God sent his Son into the world so that the world might be saved.” As it is with the Father who sent him, Jesus’ concern, too, is for the whole world. He laid down his life for the whole world. His hope was that the whole world would listen to his voice and recognise him as the one who laid down his life because of his profound love for everyone.

It is against this background that I listen to today’s Second Reading from the letter of St John: “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are… We are already the children of God… ”. A human child is one who shares the same human life as the parents. A child of God shares the divine life of God, in our case by adoption.

I ask the same question as the one stirred by the Gospel, Who are the ‘we’? Is it we Catholics? Or, perhaps, other non-Catholic, but Christian, believers? What about non-Christians? What about the Tibetan monks who were in Hamilton last week? Through the resurrection of the risen Christ, we have all somehow been adopted into the living furnace of love that is God. God does not reserve the privilege for the lucky few who happen to be born in the right country to the right parents in the right religion.

I see this as an important issue. If we are all children of God, whether we are conscious of it or not, whether we respond to it or not, we are all brothers and sisters. Our experience of the salvation willed so passionately for us by God is a factor of how we choose to see and to love each other as brothers and sisters. Until we do, our present world will never move beyond its rivalrous self-interest and endemic violence. Indeed, only as we deliberately choose to love each other, and learn to become familiar with and welcome the experience of loving shall we be able in the next life to see God as God really is and to become like God – because God is love.

On this Anzac Day weekend, as we commemorate, one hundred years later, the futile killing at Gallipoli, it saddens me that nations around the world, including our own Australia, still seem so easily to think of war as an acceptable solution to major international conflicts. Like the very ones we march out to fight, we seem incapable of acknowledging others as brothers and sisters – loved children of the God we claim to profess.