Acts 4:8-12; I Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18
(Because of Bishop’s Annual Appeal this weekend in Three Oaks and Sawyer Parishes only a summery of this homily may be preached)
It’s been said that every pastor ought to have six weeks of vacation each year, because if he is a really good shepherd, he deserves it; and if he is not a very good shepherd, his congregation deserves it.
“God loves you.” How often have you heard that phrase in a homily or read it in the bible or on a bumper sticker? God loves you. It is so commonplace that it often does not sink in. We hear it so often that it makes little impact. But it must make an impact, because knowing that God loves you is the center of the gospel, and little of what Jesus teaches will make any sense unless we believe that God loves us.
But how can we take in a love that is so much larger than anything we have imagined? How can we absorb the profound truth that God loves us? One of the ways we can approach this topic is: “from the lesser to the greater.” It worked like this. If we can appreciate a lesser example of what love and care is, we can then imagine that God’s love was so much greater. If we could appreciate the lesser, it could give us a glimpse of the greater.
There was an effective example of the lesser to the greater published in the New York Times this March. A reporter from the Times lost his wallet on the subway. When he arrived at the office and discovered it was gone, he was frustrated. He knew that his life would be in upheaval for the next couple of weeks, trying to identify and replace the contents. But about an hour later, a young man by the name of Paul showed up at the office and returned the reporter’s wallet. He did not want any reward for doing so. The reporter and Paul talked a few minutes about Paul’s family, in particular about his pride in his nine-month-old son, Malachi. After Paul left, the reporter decided to write a letter to Malachi. This is what he wrote:
You don’t know me, but your father Paul and I were fellow travelers on the subway at 34th Street. As I sped along, I dropped my wallet. Your father was walking a few moments behind me and found it. It had little monetary value, but to me it was priceless. Your father could have set it on a railing as so many other people would have done, but he took the time to find its owner. Searching through its contents, he supposed that the transit tickets and business cards would reveal my place of work. He was correct. He brought the wallet to me, and he would not take a reward.
In a city of millions, your father became a singularly important person. He was willing to set aside his time and schedule to perform an act of kindness for a person he didn’t even know. I wanted to tell you this because your father would probably not think his act of kindness was worthy of a boast. But I think that you should know something of the love which surrounds you. Your father was willing to make sure that a simple wallet made its way home. Just think what he would do to make sure that you—someone he loves immeasurably—will always find your way home as well. I write to you in the hope that my story can give you even a small glimpse of how much your father must love you.
From the lesser to the greater. From the care that could be appreciated in making sure that a wallet finds its owner, we can catch a glimpse of the care and love that most certainly pertains to a son. If we can appreciate the way that fathers and mothers love their sons and daughters here on earth, that can give us a small insight to how much greater is God’s care and love for us. Today’s second reading tells us that God loves us as daughters and sons. In the gospel Jesus the good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for us.
We must believe in that love. We must believe it when we are discouraged and frightened, when we’ve failed or lost our way, when we’re struggling with loss or sickness or bitterness. God will not forget us. God will not abandon us. God loves us. That is not a cliché. That is our hope and our salvation.