By Fr. Humberto, PES
As we continue in this Easter Season, we are given the beautiful image of Christ the “Good Shepherd.” Our Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” [Jn 10: 27-28] It is in hearing His voice that we come to know Him as He knows us, and our hearts are filled with the desire to follow Him in joyful obedience.
The Experience of Paul and Barnabas
In speaking to the Romans, St Paul says, “How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” [Rom 10: 14] Our Lord sends each of us to be His voice in the world. We see this again and again in the Acts of the Apostles. Today, we see Paul and Barnabas headed to Antioch (in present-day Turkey) to proclaim the Gospel. We have heard many stories of success, like the day 5,000 were baptized, or the day Peter and John healed a man who had been born crippled. Today we see that the preaching of Paul and Barnabas is so filled with God’s light that almost the whole town has gather to hear them at the synagogue in Antioch.
Sadly, there are also many stories of the rejection of God’s word. There are some who refuse to hear the voice of God. The religious leaders in Antioch are so filled with jealousy at the response to Paul and Barnabas that they incite the prominent citizens of the town to expel them from the city. Paul and Barnabas know that it is God’s word that is important, and that Christ is the Good Shepherd, who will take care of His sheep. They accept rejection with trust in God’s provident care, and shake the dust from their feet, continuing on.
New Deacons for the Church
Today we celebrate two new deacons for our parish and for the Church. Deacons Yamato and César were ordained as transitional deacons this weekend, on Saturday morning, at the Basilica of St Mary. That means that in one more year, God willing, they will be ordained priests! I hope you will join us forour family celebration of this joyous event on Sunday after the 11:00am Mass, in Carolyn Hall.
As deacons, Dcn César and Dcn Yamato are sent in a new way to proclaim the Gospel. They are sent to bring Christ to us, so that through them, we can hear the voice of our Lord, know Him, and follow Him more closely. We will hear them reading the Gospel and preaching from time to time at Mass. But they will also preach the Gospel with their lives in a new way.
Think of the example of St Stephen, who was among the first ordained deacons in the early Church, serving in Jerusalem. His preaching was alive with Christ. We read that he was “full of grace and power, [and] did great wonders and signs among the people.” [Acts 6: 8] His conformity to Christ made him many enemies among the various synagogues of Jerusalem. Eventually, he was killed for his faith, and is venerated today as the first Christian martyr. His preaching, and the witness of his life (even forgiving those who were taking his life while he was being stoned to death), inspired and encouraged the early Christians, as they faced the first round of persecutions. And God continues to use him to inspire us and many others, as we strive to follow our Lord by offering our lives in service of God and His Church.
This is what it means to know the Good Shepherd, who said, “I will lay down my life for the sheep.” [Jn 10: 15] We can only say that we truly know Him if we are willing to listen to His voice and follow His commands in our daily lives. St Cyril of Alexandria summed it up well when he said, “The mark of Christ’s sheep is their willingness to hear and obey.” Mary will help us to listen and follow, as she did most perfectly in her own life.