Fr. Rick’s Homily – 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shephard Sunday)
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118; 1John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
Home Missions collection today. Over the years mission Utah, including St. Christopher’s have benefited greatly from this collection. Please be your usual generous selves.
About 30 years ago I read a book by Joseph Campbell who was largely regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on world mythologies. The book was The Hero with a Thousand Faces and was a study of the Hero theme, or motif that runs throughout all the mythologies of major cultures in all ages. In this study he painstakingly demonstrated that in all these mythologies a hero is born of some sort of supernatural means, comes to the Earth to save the people and later lives for eternity. He came to the scholarly conclusion that none of the mythologies are any more true than any other, but rather it’s the motif that is undeniable. Humans seem to have a sort of collective consciousness that reveals this Truth to them from outside or inside that is leading us in the way of the universe. Campbell himself was a former Catholic and his books had been making quite a hit among spiritual seekers of 1980’s and 90’s America. I have to suspect that the compelling case he makes about the commonality in mythologies and religions probably led more than a few Catholics away from the Church.
This was before I studied for the priesthood and was myself on quite an arduous journey wondering why and how Catholicism really mattered to me in my day-to-day life. Interestingly, my consideration of the Hero led ME to the question: If I could pick from all the heroes from all the mythologies, who would I really want to be God? That was easy hands down: Jesus. Jesus was the only genuinely benevolent God. Jesus was God who became man, was born into a very common family and took on all the vulnerabilities of human nature. He lived in total service to the people with a special sensitivity to the weakest and the most vulnerable. This whole study of mythology for me made the whole Catholic religion seem more legitimate. God has been reaching out, calling out, calling together all the people of the world from the beginning of time. That’s why there is this undeniably common understanding of a hero coming to save us.
Another interesting figure of the late 19th and early 20th century was psychiatrist, Carl Jung, often referred to as the father of modern psychology. His well-publicized work on dreams seem to reveal a common dreamscape that pervades all people of all cultures of all ages. Perhaps this has some connection to Jesus’ proclamation that, ‘The kingdom of God is within you’.
(The reader should understand that the above references to Campbell and Jung are vastly simplified summaries of their extensive and complex work, but I hope are sufficient to make the point for this homily).
Interestingly in the gospel today Jesus identifies Himself when He declares, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
That also might explain how the disciples were so incredibly successful at converting people from so many different nations within the first couple hundred years of Christianity. The other nations had been prepped and somehow heard the voice when it was proclaimed by those giving a personal testimony. It as their joy that everyone wanted. So many were living in misery and hopelessness. They wanted to be saved.
Acts today declares that, ‘There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.‘ This point is greatly emphasized because there were in fact many heroes, many teachers, many prophets, but only ONE who was genuinely benevolent.
And not only THAT! Our second reading today from the First Letter of John promises us that, “we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,(!) for we shall see him as he is. None of the other heroes make that claim.
God took on our suffering so that we might take on our true inheritance as His children. We are heirs to the Kingdom. Would anyone want a lesser god than that?!!
Jesus says that ‘His own know His voice and He knows their individual voices. OUR own individual voices.
You probably already expect that this might be part of your homework for the coming months. Please take the time to identify how and when you recognized the voice of Jesus among all the others? How did He speak to you so personally? Recall that Jesus tells us that He knows our voices as well. What were we asking for or pleading for when we knew our voice was being heard? This is probably the first and most important part of evangelization.
Actually do this. I’ll be checking back regularly and have these questions in the bulletin and on the website. Eventually share your stories with others in the parish community and beyond. AND listen to THEIR stories.
We shall be like HIM… not just with our glorified bodies in Heaven, but in our daily lives while still here on Earth.