Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, April 21, 2013, "Where are you God?", Fr. Gregoire Catta

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Sunday April 20 – 2013 / St Mary of the Angels
John 10: 27-30

I don’t know for you, but for me, the life of a shepherd with his sheep is rather far away from my personal experience. I was born in a city and I spent most of my life in urban settings. I don’t know anything about breeding sheep. Nonetheless, I think that the image that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel is very expressive. Whether we are from the city or from the countryside we can easily understand it and appreciate it. To present the relationship between Jesus and us we are given the image of the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep: a shepherd who takes care of his sheep.

There are at least two lessons to retain from this image. First, God, in Jesus Christ, takes care of us, at all time and in all situations. Second, we, as Christians trying to follow Jesus and as men and women in the image and likeness of God are called to imitate him and take care of one another.

First, God takes care of us. “My sheep… I know them…I give them eternal life… No one can take them out of my hand.” Those are strong words, full of care, of attention, of love and tenderness, full of hope and support, and especially when we hear them after this last week and the tragedy of last Monday. Those words are no explanation or justification but simply the reassuring that we are not alone in front of the mystery of human violence and of suffering. God is with us. Jesus continuously takes care of his sheep. We can trust in him, because the one who says “I know my sheep” is the same who suffers the passion and the cross. Jesus knows all the human life and not merely the joys of human life but also its challenges and its sufferings. We can trust in him.

I’d like to talk to you about three examples taken from my experience that show ways in which God takes care of us.

Yes, God takes care of us! When I saw the picture of Martin Richard, this 8 year old boy from Dorchester, not that far from here, who died in the explosions of Monday, that reminded me the photos of other children victims of blind violence in Syria, in Congo, in Palestine and Israel and in so many places around the world, and that reminded me as well those children in the neighborhoods of our cities who are victims of gun shots exchanged by gang members. Each time it is the same question: how is it possible? Where are you God? Do something! This reaction, I think is perfectly legitimate. It is the reaction that we find so many times in the Bible. The Psalms, for example, are full of expressions like these. Where are you, my God? This is a way God has to take care of us. God is the one to whom we can cry in our prayer, the one we can even shout at in order to express our despair and our incomprehension. God is always present to listen to us. Let’s not be afraid to talk to God, to cry to God!

God takes care of us! We feel it as well in the solidarity expressed in times of difficulties and hardship. This week, we have been witnesses of many forms of solidarity from various communities of our city but also from the whole country and even beyond. We’ve seen great signs of solidarity uniting people in prayer, grief, mourning and resilience, beyond everything that usually divides us. In our parish, we experience very regularly that God takes care of us through the solidarity we develop among us. Almost two weeks ago, we were gathered in the chapel of the rectory to pray with and for people in our community who suffered from a miscarriage or the loss of baby shortly after the birth: mothers, but also fathers, sisters and brothers. It was a very emotional moment and we experienced how the community that we form can really be an instrument in the hands of God to bring comfort and support for those who suffer, an instrument for taking care of each one of us.

God takes care of us. This week I was really scotched to the news through Internet and the TV. I don’t know for you, but I felt very much overwhelmed. Very often there was nothing really new, but I couldn’t but continue to watch the same images and the same reports. Last Monday, I was watching TV with my Jesuit companions after the news of the explosions broke out. It was the same 15 second of video over and over again. At 5:25, we stood up and went in our chapel for our daily mass. In the chapel when we were waiting in silence for the beginning of the mass, I realized how much this silence was comforting for me. God was taking care of me in offering me this opportunity to pray with my brothers, this opportunity to experience the silence, a silence full of God’s presence. In our world so full of images and noise, I think that one way God has to take care of us is in offering us opportunities to encounter him in silence.

God takes care of us! This is the first lesson we can take from the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. There is a second lesson as well. We are called to imitate Jesus. Like him, we are called to take care of one another. This is the way to follow Jesus. And taking care of one another starts with paying attention to one another, with entering into a deeper knowledge of one another. Jesus says, “My sheep… I know them.” In our community there is a lot of fraternity, friendship, solidarity. But it is a continuous challenge to persevere and grow up in the attention that we have for one another, in the knowledge that we have of one another. It is a continuous challenge to be able to pay attention to those who have a difficult time. It’s not always visible that someone or a family is having a tough time, for whatever reason. It’s only when we have developed a real sense of paying attention and when we have developed ties beyond superficiality that we can perceive behind the usual “hello, how are you doing,” that today there is something that is not Ok! To take care of one another, like Jesus takes care of his sheep, starts with paying attention to one another.

Today, we are given the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It is Good News because it is a strong reminder that God really takes care of us. It is also Good News because it calls us to do the same and to take care of one another. So let’s pray to God that we may receive the grace and the strength to believe in this Good News and to put it into practice.

 

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