Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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July 18, 2021
[St. Catherine Church, Kapaa; St. Theresa Church, Kekaha (Confirmation & First Communion); Immaculate Conception Church, Lihue (Confirmation & First Communion)]
I believe that one of the best ways we can learn something is to know we have to teach it. If you are just gaining knowledge for yourself or to pass a test, you may not be motivated to retain it or develop it much after you have taken it in and been tested on it. But if you know you have to teach it to someone else, you will learn it very well and be more motivated to fully understand what you are teaching, because you know students may ask you challenging questions, and you want to be prepared to answer them.
I find the readings today support this viewpoint in their interplay between disciple and teacher, between the sheep that are led and the shepherd who leads them.
We see the disciples who had been sent out by Jesus to do his work of proclaiming repentance and bringing healing in his name, and now they are coming back to him, rejoicing at all they were able to accomplish, but exhausted from the experience. Jesus knew that if they were going to truly learn to proclaim his power over sin, sickness and death, they had to become teachers. And so he sent them out.
But we must be very careful that we do not read the Gospels in the past tense. Because Jesus is alive among us still and still wants to call all to repentance and healing. Now he does that through his disciples – which means all of us! Yes, he calls the clergy and religious in a special way, but he calls and commissions every one of his disciples to go out in his name. He empowers them by first immersing them in the name of God in their Baptism, when he soaks them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He anoints them with sacred Chrism in the sacrament of Confirmation, and he seals or marks them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. He feeds them not with ordinary food, but with his own Body and Blood, so that wherever they go, he will go. We are the sheep of his flock and the multitude of disciples who gather together to learn from his Word. But he also sends us out to share his Word with others, so that in teaching them, we ourselves can be more proficient students, disciples, and sheep of his flock.
When a child in school reaches out to a new classmate who feels lost in a new school, that child is shepherding the new student into the community of the Lord. When someone reaches out to befriend the person that others shun because he or she is different in some way, that person is being a good shepherd and at the same time is learning how to be a more faithful member of the flock of Jesus, who always wants to reach out to those who are on the margins of society. When someone who does not know Jesus except as a person from the history books seems lost in life and is wandering through life like a sheep without a shepherd, Jesus depends on us to reach out to that person, to tell them by actions and by words that Jesus is the best Shepherd and guide they could possibly have. They will be credible to the extent that the one who share about Jesus knows Jesus intimately.
The world is full of sheep without a shepherd who hunger for the Bread of Life, but how will they ever taste and see how good Jesus is unless we teach them, reaching out to our families, our classmates, our co-workers, and our neighbors to share with them the joy we experience in Jesus. The more we come here each Sunday to be in communion with Jesus, the more we pray and reflect upon the Word of God that became flesh in Jesus, the better we will be able to be shepherds ourselves, going out from here to proclaim the good news of repentance, healing, and everlasting love.