Homilies & Official Statements
Fourth Sunday of Easter [A]
7th. May 2017
Gospel: John 10:1-10
Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.” Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them. So Jesus spoke to them again; “I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”
Global politics present many types of leaders. The sterility of politics in this era facilitates those who make promises of a far better life for the citizens. Then there are those who rule through fear and a crooked police and judicial systems. Many keep quiet because they do not want to lose their lives. Citizens see that those who challenge the leader often end up dead. Then there are those who insp;ire others to nobler and higher ideals.
The Gospel passage for this Sunday addresses the question of leadership and is full of images which propose a different model of leadership. Through the use of two images the evangelist paints the figure of the ideal leader. The first is the image of the shepherd who goes ahead of his flock and whom the sheep follow because they know his voice. This is the image of the leader who knows where he is going and who doesn’t have to look back to see who is following. He\She doesn’t have to force people to follow because the people trust him/her. They know his\her voice. The leader speaks a language that they understand. That type of leader does not have to make outlandish promises which will not be kept, nor does that leader have to threaten or cajole, the relationship is one of trust, a trust that is there because of the integrity of the life of the leader.
The second image is that of the gate. Gates open up new possibilities for us. Things that we hope for but which seemed beyond our reach are now within our grasp and as we move through the gate to these new possibilities, new horizons open up and we enter into a fuller life, a fuller way of being. The leader is not concerned about his/her own aggrandisement. True leaders concern themselves with the concerns of their followers. To be a gate however is to run the risk of being used and forgotten. True leaders however rejoice in the fact that those whom they have led have gone on to better things. Being recognized as important is not what motivates true leaders. What motivates them is the fullness of life that their followers achieve.
When these two images, that of the leader who is followed because of trust, and that of the gate come together in a person, we then have the ideal leader.
The Gospel is always good news, and today the Good news is that there have been and there are leaders today who unite these two characteristics in themselves. We think of Pope Francis. In spite of an uncompromising message, many follow him and young people testify to the way he challenges them to a fuller and more meaningful life. Many follow him not because he is a rock star or because he is watering down the doctrine and discipline of the Church as some would want us believe. They follow because he is a true leader. We thank God for him and others like him; Mother Teresa, Mons Romero, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi. Each one of these had messages which included difficult choices, the choice to forgive, the choice to remove barriers of ethnicity and social class and status, the choice to believe in oneself. People followed them because they were true leaders. We thank God for parents, for teachers, and for others who as true leaders opened up for us, new possibilities which led us to a fuller life.
The Gospel also calls us to evaluate our patterns of leadership, as parents, because we are the primary models for our children, and then as teachers, in the parish, and wherever we find ourselves. It is so easy to want to be important, to want to be recognized, that we often forget the aim of leadership, to lead others to fuller life.
As we recognize our shortcomings as leaders we ask for God’s grace, the grace to be good shepherds after the example of Jesus. Let us also pray for our country that our leaders may really lead us to a fuller life both materially and above all else spiritually.
All powerful and ever-loving God, your son Jesus, through his life, passion, death and resurrection inspires us to follow Him because his actions validated everything that he said. In following Him he has lead us to a fuller and more meaningful life. He has opened up for us many new possibilities. Through your grace may we become, wherever we find ourselves, leaders after the mold of Jesus so that as youth leaders, parents, teachers, managers, CEO’s we may inspire others to follow us because of the integrity of our lives and because we open up new and genuine possibilities for them. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, our Mother and the same Jesus, your Son. Amen