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Bishop's Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 21, 2024

[Mary, Star of the Sea Church, Waialae-Kahala (Confirmation & First Communion); Holy Family Church, Honolulu (Confirmation & First Communion); St. Michael Church, Waialua (Confirmation & First Communion)]

Let’s get real!  While these Biblical stories of sheep and shepherds are somewhat romantic, the reality is that most real shepherds take good care of their sheep because they want to sell their fine wool or to sell their meat at the highest price at market.  They are not raising their sheep as pets.  If you are raising sheep so that you can feed your family, you definitely want to defend them against predators, because every sheep consumed by a wolf is a sheep that will bring you nothing at the meat market.

Now, while there may be some university that has done a study on the matter, I am guessing that for a wolf, meat is meat, whether it is the meat of a sheep or the meat of the shepherd.  This is why Jesus says that the hired shepherd will run away, trying to preserve his own life from a wolf attack and caring little about the sheep.  But the true shepherd, because he values the sheep for what they can bring to him and his family, will withstand the wolf and fight him off, so that both sheep and shepherd can live more fully.  The hired hand and the owner of the sheep have a very different spirit that will lead them to do different things in the face of a threat.  The hireling will run to preserve himself, and the shepherd will fight off the wolf to preserve himself and the sheep.

It is unlikely that most of us who live here will be called to tend real sheep, and we certainly do not worry about real wolves here in Hawaii, because (apart of the zoo, perhaps) we do not have any wolves here.  Or do we?  There are definitely wolves who can and do attack us who are God’s beloved flock, and we need to decide whether we will simply run away from them or actively make them run away from us.  There are wolves of depression, which can drain the lifeblood out of someone; wolves of sickness keep us from doing the good things God wants us to do; wolves of bullying put fear into those they bully; wolves of deception confuse us between right and wrong.  These are very real wolves that can eat us up, we who are sheep of God’s flock.  So we need the Good Shepherd who can effectively fend off the wolves by sometimes putting his own life in danger.

In a moment, we will ask those who are to be confirmed, “Do you renounce Satan?”  He is the biggest wolf who wants to devour us with his lies and his deceptions.  But we are bold enough to stand up and say, “I do renounce Satan.”  How can we take on a wolf so powerful and so cunning, unless we have the power of the Good Shepherd, who breathes out his Holy Spirit upon us, so that we can have the courage and the wisdom to recognize this wolf when we see him in our own lives and the lives of others, and with the power of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, drive him out.  This is why you are being confirmed today, sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, because that is the Spirit of Jesus, who has the power to drive away this evil wolf.  We are given a share of his Holy Spirit so that we can stand up for the person being bullied, bring health to the sick, bring hope to those caught in the grip of depression, or bring peace to a situation where there is discord and division.  That is a real way we participate in the life of the Good Shepherd, laying down our lives for others, just as he did for us.  Then others can be more fully alive to lay down their lives for yet others, until all are consumed, not with despair or darkness, but with love.

Then when you receive Holy Communion, you will take into yourself this Good Shepherd, who is Jesus himself, so that he can be your help and your shield whenever the wolves of life surround you, and so that, living in you, you can also be good shepherds to others, fending off the wolves and giving them nourishment so that they can grow and flourish.  Jesus will be inside you, so that wherever you go, those wolves will see him and flee in fright.  And then there will be rejoicing because you were not someone who ran away from the wolf, but someone who drove him away, not by your own power or cleverness, but because Jesus our Savior and Good Shepherd is living in you!