Friday, April 24, 2015

Homily for Good Shepherd - Misericordias Domini

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:11-16). 

There is a fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” It’s about a girl on mission to go to granny’s house to deliver her some bread and wine. Before little Red riding hood ventures out into the dark woods she is warned by her mother to stay on path.

But she scarcely enters the woods when she comes face to face with a big bad wolf. But the wolf is crafty, and even seems friendly, and soon little red riding hood makes the mistake of giving the wolf granny’s address. The wolf goes on ahead to granny’s house, gulps her down, and then lies in wait for little red riding hood to show up at the door.  

When little red riding hood sees the wolf in her grammas clothing, she cries out “Oh grandmother, what big ears to you. Oh grandmother, what big eyes you have. Oh grandmother, was a terrible big mouth you have!” And with that the wolf jumped out and swallowed up little red riding hood. 

It’s a story to teach girls and boys to listen closely to their mothers. It’s a warning to stay on the right path and to be aware your own vulnerability. It’s a warning to be on guard for wolves, child predators, and other dangerous animals because we all know the world is a very dangerous place. The scriptures teach us that satan is the prince of this world, and that he prowls about like a roaring lion (like a wolf) seeking someone to devour.  

Maybe you’re all grown up now, don’t much believe in fairy tales, and maybe you’re not that concerned about the old infernal wolf. But beware! Little Red riding hood didn’t recognize him either until it was too late.  Let’s face it, you too have not heeded all the warnings of your mother. None of us have stayed on the proper path. We’ve flirted with disaster. Like little red riding hood, our own folly has come home to roost. We sin – we try to make friends with the devil – we consider our sins to be harmless but they are not. They’re destructive, dangerous, and deadly.  

Pornography invites demons into the home. Anger can poison the soul. Greed and stinginess can destroy the faith of Christians. Even anxiety and despair can separate us from the God of love.

Today we confess that we have not heeded the counsel of our mothers or of God. We are like sheep, like little red riding hood who went astray. We too have been foolish like sheep each one going his own way. We have left the path that God desires for us.

And we are no match for the wolf, no match for the devil. We confess that we need a Shepherd – one stronger than us – one who can defend us, fight for us, and save us from our sins. One who can rescue us from the belly of the wolf. Save us from the perils of everlasting death.

We actually didn't finish the story of little read riding hood. After the wolf had his meal a huntsmen, a shepherd, came along, heard the wolf snoring, sliced the wolf’s stomach, and out slipped granny and little red riding hood. Alive, resurrected, safe and sound.

There is a huntsmen, named Jesus Christ, who put the wolf in his crosshairs. He says I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. You see, the wolf had a right to take us. He had a rightful claim. We were gullible. We sinned, we wandered, we disobeyed God. We chose death over life. And yet, He sent forth his son, born of a woman to save us. He loved us chiefly by dying – by being cursed with the punishment we rightfully deserved.

Instead of you, instead of granny, or little red riding hood being harmed -  the Good Shepherd inserted himself in the jaws of death – he was eaten, devoured, consumed by death itself on the cross. He was laid in dust of the earth.

But the belly of death had to be cut open. The grave opened it’s mouth and was forced to release it’s prey. Death could not hold him and by his resurrection he has destroyed the power of sin, the grave, and the infernal wolf.

The wolf who thought you were an easy target, has at last met his match. The belly of the wolf – death itself is opened by the empty tomb on Easter morning. The grave is sliced open. The stone rolled aside. And you, granny, and red riding hood escape, unmolested, unharmed, safe-and sound, with all the children of the resurrection.

Jesus says My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I know my own and my own know me. This is why we pray The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

You have the huntsmen to protect you. A crucified, and resurrected huntsmen. A good shepherd, who loves defenseless sheep. Our Lord and God who takes us to greener pastures. So listen to his voice. Hear his words. He who says I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will never die. 

Little red riding hood was bringing bread and wine to granny for her health but you receive something even better – the very body and blood of your savior, the Good Shepherd – Jesus Christ. Food and drink that forgives sin, and places you back on the right path.

So even if you have wandered, be comforted. Again, make your way to the king of love enthroned on the altar now. A good and tender shepherd who welcomes us through the forgiveness of sins into his kingdom – where pastures are most certainly greener on the other side. A kingdom where love reigns supreme, and death itself is no more, and our homecoming is most certainly joyful. In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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