Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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May 12, 2019
[Our Lady of the Mount Church, Kalihi (Confirmation and First Holy Communion);
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Ewa Beach (Confirmation and First Holy Communion)]
Sixty-three years ago today, which was also Mothers’ Day, I received my First Holy Communion. Who would have known then that I would be here today to give First Communion to these brothers and sisters of ours? And who would have thought that I would be giving the sacrament of Confirmation as well? We never know where the Good Shepherd will lead us, but if we listen to his voice, he will always lead us exactly where he wants us to be so that we can be fulfilled ourselves and nurture others. Who among the girls of my second-grade classmates would have thought on that day that they would be celebrating this day as mothers or as grandmothers? We never know where the Lord will lead us, but we can trust that he will always lead us to the right place, if we listen to his voice and follow him.
Shepherds are very important for many reasons, but one of them is that they can see the big picture that the sheep may not be able to see for themselves. If the sheep are in a place where they have eaten up all the grass and drunk all the water available, do they know where they should go for more food and water? They would probably just think there is no more in the world and wither away and die. But the shepherd scouts out the surroundings and knows that just over that ridge or just across this dry stream, there is more food and water for the sheep. He sees what the sheep cannot see, and so he leads them along the right path. They may wonder why his is leading them one way, when another might look more promising to them, but the shepherd knows better. So it is the Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who sees the big picture of our lives and knows what will nourish us best.
Perhaps Jesus sees that some of you will be mothers or fathers yourselves one day, and if you listen to his voice, he will prepare you to be good husbands and wives and good parents. Perhaps Jesus sees that some of you are called to be priests, or religious Sisters or Brothers. You can resist and go your own way – as I did many times – but the Good Shepherd will always draw you back to what he knows is the right path for you, sometimes having you following willingly, but sometimes prodding you and pulling you to go the right way. The beautiful thing is that this Good Shepherd is no longer a distant voice from far away. Today, you will receive him into your hearts, so that he himself will be your food and drink. He will come into you physically to embrace and kiss and love you, so that you can better hear his voice and follow the way he wants you to go.
But once we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, and follow him, he will make us shepherds, too, so that we can see the big picture of his loving plan for everyone and have a part in leading others to the eternal banquet of heaven. He gives us a share in his Holy Spirit, so that we may do the work that he did in leading others to fullness of life. In this sacrament you are sealed, marked, branded with the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that the Good Shepherd will know that you are his own forever, and with the gift of the Holy Spirit you will be able to do things you never imagined you could do.
While you should obey your parents, because God has made them your special shepherds, you can sometimes be shepherds to them. We know that sometimes after receiving Confirmation and First Communion, you can disappear and not be seen again until you want to marry in the Church. So you can tell your parents how important it is for you that they take you to church every Sunday so that you can be in touch intimately with the Good Shepherd in Holy Communion, so that he can guide you – and them – every day. Or maybe you have a classmate who is struggling with studies or with sports, and you are pretty good at those things. You can be shepherds to them, but helping them learn what they need to learn so they feel better about themselves. Or maybe you know someone who is picked on by others and is always afraid. You can be a good shepherd to that person through your support, so that the person knows he or she is never alone. If you do this, you may be applauded and appreciated, but you yourself may also be ridiculed and put down. Our first reading today showed that Paul and Barnabas were accepted by some and rejected by others, but they knew they were doing the right thing, because they felt the joy of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
So we thank God that you are here today to cling more closely to the Good Shepherd in your intimate and holy communion with Jesus so that you can better listen to his voice leading you to good pastures. But you are also here to be filled with his Holy Spirit so that you may be good shepherds yourselves, leading others by the power of the Spirit, to the best food and drink, the Body and Blood of Jesus himself.