Listening to the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Sunday, 30th April 2023, St. Theresa’s Parish, Bwari, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama

Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10

Listening to the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd

The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” a day in which the Church recalls the relationship between the leaders and the led as described in the image of the shepherd and the sheep. Christ speaks to us today as a Good Shepherd and admonishes us to listen to Him with an open heart and a receptive disposition. I hope the image of shepherds or herdsmen does not trigger a bitter reminder of the atrocities committed by militant herdsmen, leading to colossal loss of lives and property.

In ancient Palestine, the word “shepherd” was used to denote selfless love, sincerity, commitment, and sacrificial service. Jesus adopted the image because the shepherd led the flock to pasture daily, watching over them, and if any sheep strayed, it was the shepherd’s duty to search diligently until he found it or had some strong evidence that it was killed. The task of a shepherd was often associated with high risks and hardship; from the extremes of heat and cold, sun and rain (cf. Gen. 31:40), the attacks of wild beasts or marauding robbers (cf. Gen. 31:39).

The office of shepherd required constant vigilance, tenderness towards the young and feeble (cf. Is. 40:11), and a great sense of responsibility and accountability. These qualities are no doubt lacking a great deal in contemporary religious, civil, and political leadership. We hope that our next set of political leaders at all levels to be sworn in on 29th May, will be true shepherds and true statesmen who work for the good of the nation, unity of all Nigerians, and equitable distribution of sensitive positions and resources. Nigerians did not elect leaders who are simply going to be in government to use public resources for self-preservation, and only focusing on strategies to win the next elections.

Today also is known as Vocations Sunday, dedicated to praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. In celebrating the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, established by Saint Pope Paul VI in 1964, we recall that the Pope desired also that lay faithful in various communities should respond to the call and mission that the Lord entrusts to each of them in today’s world, amid its afflictions and its hopes, its challenges, and its achievements, to proclaim the good news to all.

The 2023 message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, is titled, “Vocation: Grace and Mission.” There is no happiness and full self-realization unless we offer others the new life that we have found. Saint Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). And the First Letter of John begins with the words, “What we have heard and seen, looked at and touched – the Word made flesh – we declare also to you, so that our joy may be complete” (1:1-4). Lay men and women are expected to be devoted to raising families as domestic churches and working as leaven of the gospel to renew the different sectors of society.

I am delighted to be with you, Rev. Fr. Thomas Asen, (parish priest and Dean), the resident priests, and the entire parishioners of St. Theresa’s Parish, Bwari, to pray with you, and to administer the sacrament of confirmation on 720 of your parishioners. The last time I visited was to commission the newly built rectory, big enough to accommodate some of our priests studying in Veritas University, Bwari. Your spiritual and pastoral progress is very evident and quite impressive. From your deanery, we carved out Kubwa deanery, a sign of expansion and growth of the faith. I urge you to continue to collaborate with your priests and to build a family of love, unity, and joy, so that thousands more can be added to our number as we read in the first reading today that after the sermon of St. Peter over three thousand persons were converted. Let us respond positively to Christ’s offer of salvation and offer it to others.
To be a good shepherd St. Peter reminds us in the second reading that one must endure ordeals as Christ did for the sake of His flock(cf. 1 Pt. 2:24). In addition to the image of Christ the Good Shepherd, we are presented with the image of the gate of the sheepfold in the gospel reading. Jesus for us is that gate by which we enter eternal life.

We must watch out against worldly and false shepherds who go about exploiting and misleading the flock.Today there are so many voices of “prophets”, “evangelists”, “apostles” and “seers” that leave many people confused about which one is genuine and which is fake. Visions and divine messages come from different sources so much so that many no longer can discern the voice of God, to the extent that people pay more attention to articulate or mesmerizing but deceptive preachers rather than preachers of the cross of salvation. Some Christians now follow these “powerful” men and women of God but not God. Recently, we heard of how more than 50 bodies were exhumed from a land belonging to a pastor in Kenya, who told his followers to fast to death in order to see Jesus! This irrational action is an exploitation of the gullibility of the people. We must therefore pray for genuine shepherds who lead the people to Christ, the Door to eternal life.

On this eve of the month of May, the month of Mary, we pray not for more priests or Religious with materialistic tendencies, but those who give selflessly and for political shepherds who will ensure that all Nigerians without discrimination are well looked after under their tender and loving care.

St. Theresa, pray for us.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *