My dear Sisters and Brothers! All of us here present have been baptised but we can relate to all those three goats. At times we search for happiness and life away from Christ, don’t we? Then we realise that it takes us to nowhere and we return to Our Lord. The goat on Jesus’ shoulders also the expresses our hope to be embraced and supported by our Saviour in spite of our wonderings away.
The image was produced around 3rd century AD when some time had already elapsed from the days of Christ. Does it mean that this old wall painting in Rome is about nostalgia for the good old days described in the Bible? Not at all, it is about faith in the Good Shepherd who leads his humble flock to a share in the joys of heaven.
The first reading for this Good Shepherd Sunday gives us an insight into a community of believers in Antioch. They didn’t have Jesus in the way the Apostles had him when the Twelve walked with him the hills and valleys of the Holy Land. Jesus ascended into heaven but he sent his Holy Spirit to fill the believers, to create of them his Holy Church. When you research the Bible you discover that the four Gospels which tell us the story of Jesus’ life on earth take one third of the New Testament. What is the rest about? Two third of the New Testament is about Jesus’ life in his Church after the Day of Pentecost. It is the story of the evangelising community of Jesus’ followers. The community of people who couldn’t keep Jesus’ love to themselves but because of that love found themselves compelled to evangelise. They desired to bring others into the same loving and life-changing relationship with the Lord.
The two people of whom we heard in the first reading were not some employees hired by the community. Paul and Barnabas were home-grown missionaries. They were an integral part of their own communities which desired to get the message of Jesus out there.
We know that those two men are dead but their mission is not dead. After 2000 years we still keep writing the Acts of the Apostles by our commitment to living and spreading the message of Jesus.
In 1841 when the Missionary Oblates of Marry Immaculate celebrated their Silver Jubilee a Canadian bishop looking for missionaries for his vast diocese visited the Oblate Founder - Bishop Eugene de Mazenod. He was because someone described Eugene as “the man with the heart of St Paul.” The Canadian bishop realised that it was his chance. Someone with the heart of St Paul wouldn’t refuse to evangelise. He was right. The Oblates for their twenty-fifth anniversary didn’t throw a party but they sent the first group of missionaries overseas. An interesting way to celebrate a mile stone, isn’t it?
My Dear Fellow Catholics! Good Shepherd Sunday invites us to intensify our prayers, our commitment to spreading the Gospel. We mustn’t keep our faith to ourselves. Jesus’ died and was raised to life for all people. They need to hear that.
Those who are discerning their vocation at the moment I would like to leave with the image of another person from the Bible- Prophet Elijah. According to the Bible Elijah will return and when he returns the Messiah will appear immediately. That’s why the Jews, who still wait for the Messiah, when they celebrate their annual Passover they pray for Elijah to come. Then they send someone to open the door for him.
Our faith tells us that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah and then Jesus appeared among the people. However this profound image of Elijah as the announcer of Christ’ coming I find as a help for those who weigh their future. If you find the image of Elijah intriguing and speaking to you it may be because the Lord is calling you to give your life to evangelise, to announce him to others. If the image of Elijah who turns up and everyone starts looking over his shoulders to see the Messiah coming fascinates you it may mean that you are called to spend your life for God’s glory and the salvation of others.