Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shepherds and Mommas

Readings for Sunday, May 11/ 4th Sunday of Easter:
Acts 2:14, 36-41
Psalm 23:1-6
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10

Friday evening I had dinner with my mom and my two older sisters for Mother’s Day. One of the things that inevitably comes up in the midst of the conversation is the fact that mom loves me more than she loves them. I don’t believe this, of course, but it’s fun to rile my sisters up every now and then. I joke about the three reasons that mom supposedly loves me more, my personal triple crown, if you will. First, I’m adopted. That means I can word it ever so nicely and say, “Mom picked me, she had to keep y’all!” Secondly, I’m the only boy, so that means I’m special or something, right? And lastly, I’m the baby of the family. This all together means that I’m pretty much spoiled rotten. And if that wasn’t enough - my sisters like to point out - I became a priest! All of this is simply to highlight the fact that while I know my mom loves my sisters and me equally, I also know that love is incredibly strong.

As a teenager my mom often reminded me of her love for me when I would bring home a cute girl or go out on a date. Afterward she would always give me a big hug and remind me, “Just remember, Momma loved you first and Momma loved you best.” It was a mother’s love that strengthened me in my discernment of my priestly vocation. I had completed two years of seminary and taken some time off to visit monasteries and consider becoming a monk. In that time I felt called to the priesthood but was scared because of the uncertainty of what lie ahead in the vocation itself and whether I could persevere in such a life. One night I was talking with my mom when the Lord pierced my heart and helped me to see what I had to do and much to the frustration of my mom’s legs, this 220lb. baby boy sat in her lap and sobbed. She simply hugged me, pat me on the back and said, “It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay.” Indeed it was okay and I love my priestly vocation more than I could every have dreamed, thanks to her encouragement.

My mom’s love for me is incredible. I sometimes marvel at how strong it is. And yet, as strong as her love is for me, it is but a reflection of the love that God has for each and every one of us. In the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God speaks to us and says, “Can a mother forget her child?” Clearly the answer is no. But He continues, “Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” As incomprehensible as it is that a mother would forget her own child, even more so is the mindfulness that God has for us. That is what we celebrate this weekend on Good Shepherd Sunday. That we have a heavenly shepherd guiding us to heavenly pastures.

A mother guides, protects, and nourishes her children and that guidance, protection, and nourishment are signs of the love of the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In Baptism He gave each of us the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts and to lead us along the path of this life to find the gate of heaven and pass through. The Lord Jesus protects us from the wiles of the evil one, most definitively by His death on the Cross that conquered sin and death. And the Father? He gently nourishes the flock with a gift we could never even think to ask for – the flesh and blood of God that gives us life. These all have one goal: heaven. We were not made for this earth but for the Lord and the glory that is to come. That’s why we have the Eucharist. That’s why we NEED the Eucharist. It is in a real sense the key to the heavenly gate. It is the means by which we are able to walk the path and enter to eternal life and be nourished in the heavenly banquet. We must have the Eucharist.

I have received lots of gifts over the years from my mom – many of them are still useful and valuable for me today. But the one gift that I treasure most from my mom is the gift of faith. It was her willingness to continue to push me to grow that brought me to the place I am today. It was her continuing to push me to attending Mass, youth group, and various functions that led to my conversion to the faith, my discovery of a priestly vocation, and hopefully one day to the joy of heavenly life. Parents, I know that you want the best for your children and you give them many gifts throughout the year that show your love for them. But all of these gifts mean nothing if they fail to receive the gift of faith. Help them to grow in their faith. Bring them to Mass, teach them to pray, help them to love the Lord Jesus, show them what it means to serve the poor. Though all other gifts will necessarily be left behind, there is one that has eternal consequence. Be generous with that gift and pour it out upon them daily. Though it may seem hard and fruitless sometimes, you will not regret it.

So as we continue in this Eucharistic sacrifice, we pray God’s grace upon those making their First Holy Communion this weekend and we pray it upon ourselves, that God would continue to call us to the heavenly pastures made for us and that we would show forth our faith and follow the shepherd who beckons.

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