Sermons, hymns, meditations and other musings to guide our annual pilgrim's progress through the liturgical year.

Sunday, April 18, 2021



There’s something very endearing about sheep, isn’t there?  They’re placid little animals on the whole, meekly following their shepherd as he leads them from one pasture to another so they can feed on the fresh grass of God’s good earth.  They trust their shepherd, and most of them are quite content to follow him without a single rational thought in their head.  They don’t question how they should follow, or why they should follow, they just follow.  They don’t worry about what would happen if the shepherd can’t find a fresh pasture, or what he would do if the wolf attacks them.  They just trust him unquestioningly and follow him whithersoever he goeth.  It’s Good Shepherd Sunday today.  We know who the Good Shepherd is, and it’s time to realize also that we are the sheep.

“We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,” as it says in Psalm 94.  It’s an analogy we should pay more attention to.  The nature of sheep informs us as to the how’s and why’s of the behavior God requires of us.  Like sheep, we should have blind obedience to our Shepherd, who is our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should follow him wherever he takes us—without question, without complaint, and without fear.  Whatever the perils the future holds for us, perils from land and sea, enemies foreign and domestic—we must trust in the Lord.  That Lord is our shepherd, and our trust in our shepherd should be unassailable.  Why?  Because he is such a Good Shepherd who will never fail us, never abandon us to the wolves, never tire of looking after us, his sheep.  He loves his sheep.

Between his Resurrection and his Ascension into heaven, our Lord founded his Church.  He appointed Peter, the Rock, to lead his Church, and to be his vicar on earth, acting as his very own chief shepherd, our pastor.  Three times he admonished St. Peter to feed his sheep.  For two thousand years, the Catholic faithful were able to trust Peter and each of his successors, the Vicar of Christ, to feed us, his sheep, to carry out the duties of shepherd entrusted to them.  We became accustomed to blindly following Christ’s Vicar, the Shepherd he appointed over us.  We followed like sheep, with total trust.  What an inconceivable betrayal then, that they allowed the smoke of Satan to enter into the sheepfold.  It was a betrayal of us, and more significantly, it was a betrayal of the trust our Lord had placed in the successors of St. Peter.  They not only allowed the wolves to enter in, they actually became those very wolves, devouring the faithful instead of feeding them.  On top of it all, while they acted as wolves they put on sheep’s clothing and still to this day play the exalted role of shepherd in this pantomime, this parody of the Holy Catholic Church.  The Shepherd has been struck, and “all we, like sheep, have gone astray,” as Isaiah prophesied, “every one to his own way.”

Yes, we were given the grace not to follow a fake shepherd who was now a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  But make no mistake about it, we are still in a very perilous situation.  We have gone astray.  We are sheep without a shepherd, and that’s not a good thing to be.  Because sheep need to follow something, and there are plenty of evil men in this world who would gladly become your new leader.  Hence the abundance of cults, not only religious cults (and we probably know a few traditional Catholic groups who have become cults), but also cults of personality—we follow celebrities, movie stars, corrupt politicians, influential doctors, and turn them into our new shepherds, someone who will feed us with something worth eating.  Don’t be misled.  The constant haranguing from these people who would push their anti-Christian agenda upon us must be not only ignored but defied.  And defiance does not come easily to us sheep.

There is no substitute for the Good Shepherd.  Don’t place your hope in men—the Lord is my Shepherd.  With the dismal failure of his representatives on earth, we must not go wandering off after anyone who plays a tune we find attractive.  Remember the children who followed the Pied Piper to their doom!  Our only hope today is to turn to our blessed Lord himself, and to him alone.  It’s not how he wanted it to be, but if our pastors have betrayed him, we have no other suitable alternatives.  There are no other options.

So let’s follow our Lord closely.  The safer you want to be in this increasingly perilous world, the closer you will cling to the Good Shepherd.  What did our Lord say?  That “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  In other words, it’s not enough to be just sheep, following along from a distance.  We need to be converted and be like baby sheep—little lambs!  That’s the kind of trust we need to place in our Good Shepherd.  If we can’t find our Mama Sheep, and if our Papa Sheep is more concerned with climate change and promoting the socialist agenda than with feeding his children, we must recognize that we are little orphan lambs.  And lambs don’t fight back.  They run away from the wolves in sheep’s clothing and nuzzle up to the Shepherd.   We need to hop right up to his feet and bleat our prayers to him so that he will take us up into his arms and carry us!  You’ve all seen pictures and statues of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb in his arms.  That’s where you and I need to be, right next to his Sacred Heart, clinging to him and trusting him not only to lead us, but to bear us in his arms through the trials and misfortunes we might otherwise encounter.  He will protect us with his own life.  The Good Shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep.  In fact, he already did.



By Francis Rous, 1579-1659

1 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
in pastures green; he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.

2 My soul he doth restore again,
and me to walk doth make
within the paths of righteousness,
e’en for his own name’s sake.

3 Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
yet will I fear none ill,
for thou art with me and thy rod
and staff me comfort still

 4 My table thou hast furnished
in presence of my foes.
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
and my cup overflows.

5 Goodness and mercy all my life
shall surely follow me,
and in God’s house forevermore
my dwelling place shall be.



It’s very important to know who we are.  There’s a need that springs from the depths of our human nature that begs us to explore ourselves and find out not only what makes us tick, but what is the actual essence of our personality.  This is nothing to do with the utter nonsense that drools from the mouth of our more progressive brethren.  Gender identity is nothing to do with this exploration of our inner self.  We grow up knowing quite well whether we’re male or female, and any attempt to alter the nature that God gave us is by definition unnatural, and even blasphemous.  Nevertheless, as we grow in self-awareness, we do need to recognize what our own nature is beyond its obvious and scientific boundaries.

Our personality, by and large, is what it is.  We can’t change who we are.  But in recognizing our personality with its own individual faults and virtues, hopes and fears, sense of humor, abilities and energies, we are able to use this knowledge to channel our behavior into a lifestyle that is pleasing to God.  Am I nurturing and loving?  Then I should do what comes naturally, by being a good parent, raising children for God and taking care of my family.  Am I the studious and intellectual type?  In that case, I should learn to know God better and apply my knowledge to make the world a better place.  Am I physically strong, a hard worker?  Then I should provide for my family and help my neighbor when called upon.  There is an infinite number of personalities.  We are all unique, and God loves us for who and what we are.  It’s up to us, on the other hand, to channel our behavior so that it pleases God.  We can’t help who we are, but we can help how we act.  We must work with the tools God gave us so that we can return our own gift of love to him.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we have the chance to make at least one very basic determination about our personality.  If the Lord is my Shepherd, then I must follow.  But what kind of animal follows a shepherd?  He’s followed actually by two species of animal, both of which he feeds and takes care of.  There are, of course, the sheep.  Today’s sermon focuses on us as sheep, passively following the Good Shepherd, blindly obeying his commands because of the faith and trust they have in him.  But there’s another animal you’ll see in the sheepfold, one that we sometimes forget about.  That’s the sheepdog.

The sheepdog is just as loyal to the shepherd as the sheep.  But he’s a different kind of animal altogether.  He actively helps the shepherd to guard the livestock, barking out warnings to the him when the sheep are in danger.  The sheepdog will even defend the sheep when they’re under threat.  And in normal times, when things are going well, the sheepdog moves quietly but rapidly around the sheep, herding them in, making sure they’re all going in the right direction and not wandering off. 

If we can find it within ourselves, we need to identify more with the sheepdog than the sheep.  Especially today, when our actual shepherds have gone missing in action and left both sheep and sheepdogs to the mercy of the wolves.  Priests, parents, teachers, whoever we are, we find ourselves more and more in this role of sheepdog, warning our children, our employees, our students, our parishioners, of the increasing dangers the world poses.  We can no longer content ourselves with being mere sheep—circumstances have determined that we take on the extra duties of the sheepdog, if it’s at all within the abilities of our personality to do so.