I Am the Good Shepherd - Monsignor Yennock's Homily from May 3, 2020

May 4, 2020

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD - FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

MAY 3, 2020

DR. JOHN LENNOX IS A PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY IN LONDON. HE IS ALSO A CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST WHO HAS WRITTEN SEVERAL BOOKS AND HAS DEBATED WELL-KNOWN ATHEISTS LIKE CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, RICHARD DAWKINS AND SAM HARRIS.

RECENTLY DR. LENNOX WROTE A BOOK ENTITLED WHERE IS GOD IN A CORONAVIRUS WORLD?  WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE ARE HURTING? WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE ARE CONFUSED? WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE ARE AFRAID? WHERE IS GOD WHEN OUR WORLD IS SUDDENLY TURNED UPSIDE DOWN? WHERE IS GOD WHEN A VIRUS SPREADS THROUGH 192 COUNTRIES LEAVING INFECTION, DEATH AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE IN ITS WAKE? WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE ARE FACED WITH MORTALITY AND VULNERABILITY?

THERE ARE TWO UNDERLYING QUESTIONS BEHIND THE WHERE IS GOD QUESTION. ONE QUESTION HAS TO DO WITH THE INTELLECT. WE QUESTION WHETHER GOD HAS THE POWER TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS PANDEMIC? THE SECOND QUESTION HAS TO DO WITH THE WILL AND THE EMOTIONS. WE QUESTION WHETHER GOD LOVES US AS MUCH AS WE THOUGHT HE DID. IF HE DOES, WHY DOESN’T HE SHOW UP? HOW DO I KNOW HE WANTS TO BE PRESENT?  

ALBERT EINSTEIN ADDRESSES THE QUESTION OF THE INTELLECT. HE SAYS: THE HUMAN MIND IS NOT CAPABLE OF GRASPING THE UNIVERSE. WE ARE LIKE A LITTLE CHILD ENTERING A HUGE LIBRARY. THE WALLS ARE COVERED TO THE CEILINGS WITH BOOKS IN MANY DIFFERENT TONGUES. THE CHILD KNOWS THAT SOMEONE MUST HAVE WRITTEN THESE BOOKS. IT DOES NOT KNOW WHO OR HOW. IT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGES IN WHICH THEY ARE WRITTEN. BUT THE CHILD NOTES A DEFINITE PLAN IN THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE BOOKS---A MYSTERIOUS ORDER WHICH IT DOES NOT COMPREHEND, BUT ONLY DIMLY SUSPECTS.

THE SCIENTIST IS TELLING US THAT THERE IS A MYSTERIOUS, INTELLIGENT MIND BEHIND THE UNIVERSE.  THE DIVINE INTELLECT HAS DESIGNED, PLANNED, AND CREATED EVERY SUBSTANCE IN THE UNIVERSE—HE CREATED EVERY MILKY WAY, EVERY PLANET, EVERY GALLAXY, EVERY STAR, EVERY SUN, EVERY FORM OF LIFE AND EVERY STRAND OF DNA WITH ITS 3.2 BILLION BITS OF INFORMATION.

GOD IS THE DESIGNER, THE ENGINEER, THE PLANNER, THE CREATOR, AND THE DIRECTOR. MOST OF THE TIME HE SEEMS TO KNOW WHAT HE IS DOING. THE ONLY THING THAT CAN GO WRONG IS WHEN MAN, BY HIS FREE WILL, THROWS A WRENCH IN THE WORKS. THAT’S WHAT MAKES HIS PRESENCE COMPLICATED.

MEANWHILE, WE ARE LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.  IN OUR HUMAN WISDOM WE HAVE MANAGED TO DISCOVER QUITE A LOT ABOUT THIS UNIVERSE.  BUT WE DON’T UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING.  WE ALWAYS COME UP SHORT BECAUSE WE DO NOT SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE. WE DO NOT HAVE THE PERSPECTIVE OF GOD.

RIGHT NOW, AS WE CARRY THE CROSS OF THE CORONAVIRUS WE MUSTN’T LOSE OUR CONVICTION THAT GOD IS PRESENT. KNOWING THAT HE IS PRESENT IS THE ONLY HOPE WE HAVE THAT WE ARE NOT FACING THIS THREAT ALONE.  

REMEMBER IN THE BOOK OF EXODUS WHEN MOSES WAS FACED WITH A HUGH CRISIS—A CRISIS THAT WOULD EVENTUALLY INVOLVE THE TEN PLAGUES OF EGYPT? MOSES NEEDED TO KNOW THAT HE WAS NOT ALONE IN THIS MISSION. HE NEEDED TO KNOW THAT GOD WAS PRESENT.

REMEMBER HOW MOSES MET GOD IN THE BURNING BUSH? MOSES ASKED GOD HIS NAME? WHO SHALL I SAY SENT ME? WHAT DID GOD SAY TO MOSES? TELL THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL THAT I AM WHO AM SENT YOU. WHAT DID GOD MEAN I AM WHO AM? WHAT KIND OF A NAME IS THAT? GOD WAS SAYING TO MOSES I AM EXISTENCE ITSELF. GOD’S NAME IS EXISTENCE BECAUSE HE IS THE SOURCE OF ALL THAT EXISTS. THIS IS HIS UNIVERSE. NOTHING HAPPENS OUTSIDE OF HIM.

IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL JESUS GOES BACK TO THE BURNING BUSH AND TAKES UPON HIMSELF THE SACRED NAME OF GOD, I AM. EIGHT TIMES, IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, JESUS SAYS I AM. 

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. I AM THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE. I AM THE GATE THROUGH WHICH SALVATION COMES. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO WATCHES OVER HIS SHEEP. I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME. I AM THE TRUE VINE THAT CONNECTS ME TO YOU AND TO THE FATHER. I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NEVER HUNGER. I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. HE WHO FOLLOWS ME SHALL NOT WALK IN DARKNESS.

 

THE EIGHTH I AM SEALED JESUS DEATH WARRANT. HE DARED TO SAY TO THE LEADERS OF THE PEOPLE WHO REVERED ABRAHAM. BEFORE ABRAHAM CAME TO BE I AM. THEY ACCUSED HIM OF BLASPHEMY BECAUSE HE TOOK THE NAME OF GOD FOR HIMSELF. ON THAT DAY JESUS REMOVED ALL DOUBT THAT HE WAS THE SON OF GOD.

 

JESUS BROUGHT DIVINE PRESENCE IN HUMAN FLESH TO EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD.

A FEW WEEKS AGO WE TALKED ABOUT MARTHA AND MARY AND LAZARUS AND THEIR FRIEND JESUS. MARY AND MARTHA THE SISTERS OF LAZARUS WERE FACING A CRISIS WHEN THEIR BROTHER DIED.  THEY WERE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS. WHY DIDN’T JESUS COME SOONER? DID HE REALLY HAVE THE POWER TO SAVE LAZARUS? THEN THEY WERE LOOKING FOR PRESENCE. DID JESUS LOVE MARY AND MARTHA AND LAZARUS AS MUCH AS THEY THOUGHT HE DID?

WHAT DID JESUS SAY TO MARTHA:  "I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE MAY DIE, HE SHALL LIVE. AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE.” MARTHA, I AM IS HERE. GOD IS HERE. DO NOT WORRY. I LOVE ALL OF YOU.  THERE WILL BE A GOOD OUTCOME.

IN TODAY’S GOSPEL JESUS SAYS: “I AM THE GATE. IF ANYONE ENTERS BY ME, HE WILL BE SAVED." JESUS ALONE OFFERS THE TRUE PATH TO SALVATION. HE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS GIVEN THE WORLD A REASON TO HOPE.  

DURING THIS PANDEMIC THE ATHEISTS ARE HAVING A FIELD DAY. THEY ARE MOCKING CHRISTIANS BECAUSE OF THEIR BELIEF IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD AND THEIR TRUST IN PRAYER.

ATHEISTS DENY THE EXISTENCE OF A DESIGNER, A PLANNER, A CREATOR AND A DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSE. THE ATHEISTS BELIEVE THAT LIFE HAS NO MEANING. THE ATHEISTS BELIEVE THAT LIFE HAS NO PURPOSE. ALL THEY HAVE TO OFFER US IS FUTILITY. THE ATHEIST CANNOT OFFER ONE SHRED OF HOPE TO A WORLD THAT NEEDS HOPE. ONLY A LIVING INTELLIGENT LOVING GOD CAN GIVE HOPE.   

YOU KNOW SOMETHING. NOTHING TEACHES US ABOUT THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE CREATOR AS MUCH AS WHEN WE LEARN THE EMPTINESS OF EVERYTHING ELSE.

IN TODAY’S GOSPEL JESUS SAYS: I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. JESUS IS NOT ONLY THE GATE THROUGH WHICH SALVATION COMES. HE IS ALSO THE LIVING SHEPHERD WHO IS ALWAYS PRESENT. HIS SHEEP KNOW HIS VOICE AND THEY TRUST HIM. . HIS ALL SEEING EYE IS WATCHING US.   

JESUS IS THE INVISIBLE SHEPHERD WHO NEVER ABANDONS HIS FLOCK. JESUS IS THE INVISIBLE SHEPHERD WHO PROMISED THAT HE WOULD NOT LEAVE US ORPHANS.  JESUS IS THE INVISIBLE SHEPHERD WHO PROMISED THAT THERE WOULD ALWAYS BE SOMEONE WHO WAS WATCHING.

WHAT IN ALMIGHTY POWER WAS MADE,
GOD'S GRACIOUS MERCY KEEPETH.
BY MORNING GLOW OR EVENING SHADE,
GOD'S WATCHFUL EYE NEVER SLEEPETH.
WITHIN THE SHELTER OF GOD'S MIGHT,
LO! ALL IS JUST, AND ALL IS RIGHT.

IT’S INTERESTING, THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS NOW BEING EXPERIENCED BY PEOPLE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY.  A NEW WEBSITE WAS LAUNCHED IN EUROPE TO LIVESTREAM MASS FROM ALL OVER EUROPE. YOU CAN NOW PARTICIPATE IN THE MASS FROM 28 SANCTUARIES IN 17 EUROPEAN COUNTRIES.

JESUS, THE INVISIBLE SHEPHERD, HAS GIVEN US A VISIBLE SHEPHERD ON EARTH TO WATCH OVER THE FLOCK. HE GAVE US A VISIBLE SHEPHERD ON EARTH TO GUARD HIS PRECIOUS WORD. HE GAVE US A VISIBLE SHEPHERD TO BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. HE GAVE US A VISIBLE SHEPHERD TO KEEP HOPE ALIVE.

TWELVE YEARS AGO IN APRIL POPE BENEDICT XVI MADE A PILGRIMAGE TO THE UNITED STATES.

CHRIST OUR HOPE WAS THE THEME OF HIS JOURNEY. WHEREVER HE WENT, WHETHER IT WAS BEFORE THE UNITED NATIONS OR AT YANKEE STADIUM, BENEDICT PROCLAIMED JESUS CHRIST AS THE REASON FOR HIS HOPE.  HE SPOKE WITH GENTLENESS AND REVERENCE. 

 

TWELVE YEARS AGO AMERICAN CATHOLICS WERE HURTING. THEY WERE DEALING WITH THE CLOSING OF PARISHES AND SCHOOLS; DECLINING MASS ATTENDANCE; SEX ABUSE SCANDALS; YOUNG PEOPLE WALKING AWAY FROM THE FAITH, THE WEARINESS OF WAR AND FEAR OF RECESSION.

POPE BENEDICT XVI ADDRESSED THEIR DOUBTS AND FEARS WITH AN HONEST AND STRAIGHTFORWARD TRUTH—THE RISEN CHRIST HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE HEARTS, TO HEAL WOUNDS AND TO REBUILD A CHURCH AND A SOCIETY THAT IS WORTHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON CREATED AFTER HIS IMAGE, AND HIS LIKENESS.

 

POPE BENEDICT TOLD THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES THAT THE POWER OF GOD’S TRUTH LEADS TO HOPE. THE APOSTLE OF HOPE GAVE US SOMETHING TO REJOICE ABOUT. HE SAID: “AMERICANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A PEOPLE OF HOPE” HE SAID:” THIS IS A LAND OF GREAT FAITH. YOUR PEOPLE ARE REMARKABLE FOR THEIR RELIGIOUS FERVOR. THEY HAVE CONFIDENCE IN GOD”.

 

THE RESPONSE OF AMERICAN CATHOLICS AND NON-CATHOLICS TO THE APOSTLE OF HOPE WAS OVERWHELMING: 3,000 PEOPLE MET HIM AT ANDREWS AIRFORCE BASE TO GREET HIM ON HIS ARRIVAL; 13,000 PEOPLE GATHERED ON THE SOUTH LAWN OF THE WHITEHOUSE—THE LARGEST TURNOUT FOR ANY HEAD OF STATE IN THE HISTORY OF THOSE GATHERINGS—

 

THOUSANDS JOINED HIM AT COLORFUL LITURGIES AT YANKEE STADIUM IN NEW YORK AND NATIONAL PARKS IN WASHINGTON, D.C. THE VISIBLE HEAD OF THE CHURCH, THE VICAR OF CHRIST, THE SUCCESSOR OF ST PETER, AND THE SHEPHERD OF OVER A BILLION CATHOLICS BROUGHT A MESSAGE OF HOPE.

 

POPE BENEDICT ALSO BUILT BRIDGES OF FRIENDSHIP WHEN HE PRAYED WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS AT ST. JOSEPH’S CHURCH IN MANHATTAN. HE PRAYED WHEN HE MET WITH THE LEADERS OF WORLD RELIGIONS AT THE JOHN PAUL II CULTURAL CENTER IN WASHINGTON.

 

THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS INVITED POPE BENEDICT TO BRING HIS MESSAGE OF HOPE TO 192 MEMBER STATES.

 

A DEFINING MOMENT IN THE POPE’S VISIT WAS HIS SOLEMN VISIT TO GROUND ZERO. HE PRAYED SILENTLY BEFORE A CANDLE WHILE FAMILIES OF VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS WERE COMFORTED BY THE PRESENCE OF THEIR GOOD SHEPHERD WHO CAME TO MOURN WITH THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA. HE CAME TO REVEAL THE TEARS OF GOD.

 

OUR PEOPLE ARE HURTING RIGHT NOW. ISOLATION, CLOSE QUARTERS AND BOREDOM ARE LEADING TO TENSION IN MARRIAGES AND FAMILIES. DOMESTIC ABUSE IS RISING.THE DANGER OF ADDICTION AND SUICIDAL RUMBLINGS ARE ON THE INCREASE.  ELDERLY SPOUSES ARE BEING SEPARATED FROM EACH OTHER IN NURSING HOMES WITHOUT AN OPPORTUNITY TO SAY GOODBYE. SOME ARE DYING ALONE WITHOUT A WORD, A HUG, A SMILE OR A KISS FROM THEIR LOVED ONES.  IN A CORONAVIRUS WORLD WE DO NOT NEED WORDS AS MUCH AS WE NEED TO KNOW THAT OUR GOD IS PRESENT AND THAT HE CARES.

MARY AND MARTHA WERE HURTING. THEIR BROTHER WAS DEAD. THEY WERE NOT LOOKING FOR WORDS FROM THEIR FRIEND. THEY WERE LOOKING FOR HIS PRESENCE.  JESUS DIDN’T SPEAK.  JESUS WEPT.  THE TEARS OF JESUS WASHED THEIR HEARTS WITH THE REAL PRESENCE OF GOD WITH THEM.  

AT THIS TIME IN OUR HISTORY WE DO NOT NEED MORE WORDS. WE NEED TO EXPERIENCE THE TEARS OF GOD. THROUGH THE TEARS OF JESUS THE TEARS OF GOD GO OUT TO ALL THE WORLD. BECAUSE WE ARE PART OF THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST, THROUGH YOUR TEARS AND MINE THE TEARS OF JESUS CAN WASH AWAY THE LONELINESS.