POPE FRANCIS ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A: GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY.
POPE FRANCIS ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A: GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS
Kossuth Lajos’ Square (Budapest)
4th Sunday of Easter Year A, Good Shepherd Sunday,
30 April 2023
Jesus’ final words in the Gospel we have just heard sum up the meaning of his mission: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). That is what a good shepherd does: he gives his life for his sheep. Jesus, like a shepherd who goes in search of his flock, came to find us when we were lost. Like a shepherd, he came to snatch us from death. Like a shepherd who knows each of his sheep and loves them with infinite tenderness, he brought us back to the Father’s fold and made us his children.
Let us reflect, then, on the image of the Good Shepherd and on two specific things that, according to the Gospel, he does for the sheep. He calls them by name, and then he leads them out.
First, “he calls his sheep by name” (v. 3). The history of salvation does not begin with us, with our merits, our abilities and our structures. It begins with the call of God, with his desire to come to us, with his concern for each one of us, with the abundance of his mercy. The Lord wants to save us from sin and death, to give us life in abundance and joy without end. Jesus came as the Good Shepherd of humanity, to call us and bring us home. With gratitude, all of us can think back on the love he showed us when we had wandered far from him. When we, like sheep, had “gone astray” and each one of us “turned to his own way” (Is 53:6). Jesus took upon himself our iniquities and bore our sins, leading us back to the Father’s heart. This is what we heard from the apostle Peter in today’s second reading: “You were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Pet 2:25). Today too, Jesus calls us, in every situation, at all those times when we feel confused and fearful, overwhelmed and burdened by sorrow and self-pity. He comes to us as the Good Shepherd, he calls us by name and tells us how precious we are in his eyes. He heals our wounds, takes upon himself our frailties and gathers us into the unity of his fold, as children of the Father and brothers and sisters of one another.
And so, brothers and sisters, this morning, in this place, we sense the joy of our being God’s holy people. All of us were born of his call. He called us together, and so we are his people, his flock, his Church. Though we are diverse and come from different communities, the Lord has brought us together, so that his immense love can enfold us in one embrace. It is good for us to be together: bishops and priests, religious and lay faithful. And it is beautiful to share this joy of ours with the ecumenical delegations, the leaders of the Jewish community, the representatives of civil institutions and the diplomatic corps. This is the meaning of catholicity: all of us, called by name by the Good Shepherd, are summoned to receive and spread his love, to make his fold inclusive and never to exclude others. It follows that all of us are called to cultivate relationships of fraternity and cooperation, avoiding divisions, not retreating into our own community, not concerned to stake out our individual territory, but rather opening our hearts to mutual love.
After calling his sheep, the Shepherd “leads them out” (Jn 10:3). First, he brought them into the fold, calling them by name; now he sends them out. We too were first gathered into God’s family to become his people; then we too were sent out into the world so that, courageously and fearlessly, we might become heralds of the Good News, witnesses of the love that has given us new birth. We can appreciate this process of “entering” and “leaving” from yet another image that Jesus uses. He says, “I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (v. 9). Let us listen to those words again: “he will go in and out”. On the one hand, Jesus is the wide open door that enables us to enter into the Father’s fellowship and experience his mercy. Yet, as we all know, open doors are not only for entering, but also for leaving. After bringing us back into God’s embrace and into the fold of the Church, Jesus is the door that leads us back into the world. He urges us to go forth to encounter our brothers and sisters. Let us never forget that all of us, without exception, are called to this; we are called to step out of our comfort zones and find the courage to reach out to all those peripheries that need the light of the Gospel (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 20).
Brothers and sisters, “going forth” means that we, like Jesus, must become open doors. How sad and painful it is to see closed doors. The closed doors of our selfishness with regard to others; the closed doors of our individualism amid a society of growing isolation; the closed doors of our indifference towards the underprivileged and those who suffer; the doors we close towards those who are foreign or unlike us, towards migrants or the poor. Closed doors also within our ecclesial communities: doors closed to other people, closed to the world, closed to those who are “irregular”, closed to those who long for God’s forgiveness. Please, brothers and sisters, let us open those doors! Let us try to be – in our words, deeds and daily activities – like Jesus, an open door: a door that is never shut in anyone’s face, a door that enables everyone to enter and experience the beauty of the Lord’s love and forgiveness.
I repeat this especially to myself and to my brother bishops and priests: to those of us who are shepherds. Jesus tells us that a good shepherd is neither a robber nor a thief (cf. Jn 10:8). In other words, he does not take advantage of his role; he does not lord it over the flock entrusted to his care; he does not occupy spaces that belong to his lay brothers and sisters; he does not exercise inflexible authority. Brothers, let us encourage one another to be increasingly open doors: “facilitators” of God’s grace, masters of closeness; let us be ready to offer our lives, even as Christ, our Lord and our all, teaches us with open arms from the throne of the cross and shows us daily as the living Bread broken for us on the altar. I say this also to our lay brothers and sisters, to catechists and pastoral workers, to those with political and social responsibilities, and to those who simply go about their daily lives, which at times are not easy. Be open doors! Let the Lord of life enter our hearts, with his words of consolation and healing, so that we can then go forth as open doors within society. Be open and inclusive, then, and in this way, help Hungary to grow in fraternity, which is the path of peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus the Good Shepherd calls us by name and cares for us with infinitely tender love. He is the door, and all who enter through him have eternal life. He is our future, a future of “life in abundance” (Jn 10:10). Let us never be discouraged. Let us never be robbed of the joy and peace he has given us. Let us never withdraw into our own problems or turn away from others in apathy. May the Good Shepherd accompany us always: with him, our lives, our families, our Christian communities and all of Hungary will flourish with new and abundant life!
REGINA CAELI Speech
Good Shepherd Sunday Year A, 3 May 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning,
The fourth Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate today, is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. The Gospel says that: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:3). The Lord calls us by name, He calls us because he loves us. However, the Gospel says, there are other voices, that are not to be followed: those of strangers, thieves and brigands who mean harm to the sheep.
These different voices resonate within us. There is the voice of God, who speaks kindly to the conscience, and there is the tempting voice that leads to evil. How can we recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of the thief, how can we distinguish the inspiration of God from the suggestion of the evil one? One can learn to discern these two voices: they speak two different languages, that is, they have opposite ways of knocking on [the door of] our hearts. They speak different languages. Just as we know how to distinguish one language from another, we can also distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the evil one.
The voice of God never forces us: God proposes himself, He does not impose himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but transient. At first it flatters, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then it leaves us empty inside and accuses us: “You are worth nothing”. The voice of God, instead, corrects us, with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope. God’s voice is a voice that has a horizon, whereas the voice of the evil one leads you to a wall, it backs you into a corner.
Another difference: the voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past — the enemy does not want the present — it brings to surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, … many bad memories. On the other hand, the voice of God speaks in the present: “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can forego the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. It inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present: now.
Again: the two voices raise different questions in us. The one that comes from God will be: “What is good for me?”. Instead the tempter will insist on another question: “What do I feel like doing?”. What do I feel: the evil voice always revolves around the ego, its impulses, its needs, everything straight away. It is like a child’s tantrums: everything, and now. The voice of God, however, never promises joy at a low price: it invites us to go beyond our ego in order to find the true, good peace. Let us remember: evil never brings peace. First it causes frenzy, and then it leaves bitterness. This is the style of evil.
Lastly, God’s voice and that of the tempter, speak in different “environments”: the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, and gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, and sincere transparency. The enemy will say to us: “Close yourself up in yourself, besides no one understands and listens to you, do not be trusting!” Goodness, on the contrary, invites us to open up, to be clear and trusting in God and in others. Dear brothers and sisters, during this time many thoughts and worries lead us to turn inwards into ourselves. Let us pay attention to the voices that reach our hearts. Let us ask ourselves where they come from. Let us ask for the grace to recognise and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, who brings us out of the enclosures of selfishness and leads us to the pastures of true freedom. May Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel, guide and accompany our discernment.
Pope Francis Regina Coeli Speech 2017
Good Shepherd Sunday Year A
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel for this Sunday (cf. Jn 10:1-10), known as “Good Shepherd Sunday”, Jesus presents to us two images which complete each other. The image of the shepherd and the image of the door of the sheepfold. The flock, which is all of us, has a sheepfold as its home, which serves as a refuge, where the sheep live and rest after the toils of the journey. And the sheepfold has an enclosure with a door, where there is a gatekeeper. Different people approach the flock: there is one who enters the enclosure by the door and one who “climbs in by another way” (cf. v. 1). The first is the shepherd, the second a stranger who does not love the sheep and wants to enter for other reasons. Jesus identifies with the first and shows a familiar relationship with the sheep, expressed by his voice, by which he calls them and which they recognize and follow (cf. v. 3). He calls them, to lead them out to grassy pastures where they find good food.
The second image by which Jesus presents himself is that of the “door of the sheep” (v. 7). In fact, he says: “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved” (v. 9); that is, they “will have life and will have it abundantly” (v. 10). Christ, the Good Shepherd, became the door of mankind’s salvation, because he offered his life for his sheep.
Jesus, Good Shepherd and door of the sheep, is a leader whose authority is expressed in service, a leader who, in order to command, gives his life and does not ask others to sacrifice theirs. One can trust in a leader like this, as the sheep who heed their shepherd’s voice because they know that with him one goes to good and abundant pastures. A signal, a call suffices, and they follow; they obey; they begin to walk, guided by the voice of the One whom they feel as a friendly presence, strong and mild at once, who calls, protects, consoles and soothes.
This is how Christ is for us. There is a dimension of the Christian experience, that perhaps we leave somewhat in the shadows: the spiritual and affective dimension. Feeling connected to the Lord by a special bond, as sheep to their shepherd. At times we rationalize faith too much and we run the risk of losing the perception of the timbre of that voice, of the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd, which motivates and fascinates. This is what happened to the two disciples of Emmaus, whose hearts burned as the Risen One spoke along the way. It is the wondrous experience of feeling loved by Jesus. Ask yourselves the question: “Do I feel loved by Jesus? Do I feel loved by Jesus?”. To him we are never strangers, but friends and brothers. Yet it is not always easy to discern the Good Shepherd’s voice. Be careful. There is always the risk of being distracted by the din of so many other voices. Today we are invited not to let ourselves be distracted by the false wisdom of this world, but to follow Jesus, the Risen One, as the one sure guide who gives meaning to our life.
On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations — in particular for priestly vocations, so that the Lord may send us good pastors — let us invoke the Virgin Mary: May she accompany the 10 new priests whom I have just ordained.
I asked four of them from the Diocese of Rome to come forward and join me in giving the blessing. May Our Lady offer her help in support of those who are called by Him, that they may be ready and generous in following his voice.
Pope Francis Regina Coeli Speech 2014
Good Shepherd Sunday Year A
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Evangelist John presents us, on this Fourth Sunday of the Easter Season, with the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. In contemplating this page of the Gospel, we can understand the kind of relationship that Jesus had with his disciples: a relationship based on tenderness, love, mutual knowledge and the promise of an immeasurable gift: “I came”, Jesus said, “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). This relationship is the model for relations between Christians and for human relationships.
Today, too, as in the time of Jesus, many put themselves forward as “shepherds” of our lives; but only the Risen One is the true Shepherd, who gives us life in abundance. I invite everyone to place their trust in the Lord who guides us. But he not only guides us: he accompanies us, he walks with us. Let us listen to his Word with minds and hearts opened, to nourish our faith, enlighten our conscience and follow the teaching of the Gospel.
On this Sunday let us pray for the Shepherds of the Church, for all Bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, for all priests, for everyone! We pray especially for the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, whom I ordained a short while ago in St Peter’s Basilica. A greeting to these 13 priests! May the Lord help us pastors always to be faithful to the Master and wise and enlightened guides of the People of God, entrusted to us. I also ask you to please help us: help us to be good shepherds. Once I read something very beautiful on how the People of God help the bishops and priests to be good shepherds. It is a writing of St Caesarius of Arles, a Father of the first centuries of the Church. He explained how the People of God must help the pastor, and he gave this example: when a calf is hungry it goes to the cow, its mother, to get milk. The cow, however, does not give it right away: it seems that she withholds it. And what does the calf do? It knocks with its nose at the cow’s udder, so that the milk will come. It is a beautiful image! “So also you must be with your pastors”, this saint said: always knock at their door, at their hearts, that they may give you the milk of doctrine, the milk of grace and the milk of guidance.
And I ask you, please, bother the pastors, disturb the pastors, all of us pastors, so that we might give you the milk of grace, doctrine and guidance. Bother them! Think of that beautiful image of the little calf, how it bothers its mother so that she might give it something to eat.
In imitation of Jesus, every pastor “will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 31). May all pastors be so! But you must bother your pastors so that they may provide the guidance of doctrine and grace.
This Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In this year’s Message I recalled that “every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel” (n. 2). Therefore, the call to follow Jesus is both exciting and challenging. In order that it may be realized, it is always necessary to enter into deep friendship with the Lord in order to live from Him and for Him.
Let us pray that also, in these times, many young people may hear the voice of the Lord, which is always in danger of being suffocated by the clamour of other voices. Let us pray for young people: perhaps there is someone here in the Square who hears the voice of the Lord calling him to the priesthood; let us pray for him, if he is here, and for all young people who are being called. I asked four of them from the Diocese of Rome to come forward and join me in giving the blessing. May Our Lady offer her help in support of those who are called by Him, that they may be ready and generous in following his voice.
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