Pope Francis’ Homily on the Third Worldwide Priests’ Retreat

In the First Reading we enter into the tenderness of God: God tells his people how much he loves them, how much he cares for them. What God says to his people, in this Reading from the Prophet Hosea, chapter 11, he says to each one of us. And it would be good to take this text, in a moment of solitude, and set ourselves in the presence of God and listen: “When you were a child, I loved you; I loved you as a child; I saved you; I led you out of Egypt, I saved you from slavery”, from the slavery of sin, from the slavery of self-destruction and from every kind of slavery that each of us knows, has had and has within. “I saved you. I taught you how to walk”. How beautiful to hear that God teaches me to walk! The Almighty abases himself and teaches me how to walk. I recall this phrase from Deuteronomy, when Moses says to his people: “Listen you,” — they were so hard-headed — “when have you ever seen a god so close to his people as God is close to us?”. And the closeness of God is tenderness like this: he has taught me how to walk. Without Him I wouldn’t know how to walk in the Spirit. “And I held you by the hand. But you did not understand that I was leading you, you believed that I would leave you alone”. This is the story of each one of us. “I held you with human bonds, not punitive laws”. With bonds of love, ties of love. Love binds, but binds in freedom; it binds while leaving you the space to respond with love. “I was for you as one who raises a child up to his cheek and kisses her. And I bent down and fed her”. This is our history, at least it is my history. Each of us can read her own history here. “Tell me, how can I abandon you now? How can I hand you over to the enemy?”. In the moments when we are afraid, at the times that we are uncertain, He says to us: “If I did this for you, how can you think I would leave you alone, that I could abandon you?”. On the shores of Libya, the 23 Coptic martyrs were certain that God would not abandon them. And they were beheaded proclaiming the name of Jesus! They knew that God, as their head was cut off, would not abandon them.

“How can I treat you as an enemy? My heart recoils within me and my compassion grows warm and tender”. God’s compassion is kindled, this warm compassion: He alone is capable of warm compassion. I will not unleash my anger for the sins that exist, for all these misunderstandings, for the fact of idol worship. Because I am God, I am the Holy One in your midst. It is the declaration of a father’s love to his child. And to each one of us.

How often do I think that we are afraid of the tenderness of God and because we are afraid of God’s tenderness, we do not allow it to be felt within us. Because of this we are so often hard, serious, punishing…. We are pastors without compassion. What does Jesus say to us in Luke at Chapter 15? About that shepherd who noticed that he had 99 sheep for one was missing. He left them well safeguarded, locked away, and went to search for the other, who was ensnared in thorns…. And he didn’t beat it, didn’t scold it: he took it tightly in his arms and cared for it, for it was injured. Do you do the same with your faithful? When you realize that one of your flock is missing? Or are we accustomed to being a Church which has a single sheep in her flock and we let the other 99 get lost on the hill? Are you moved by all this compassion? Are you a shepherd of sheep or have you become one who is “grooming” the one remaining sheep? Because you seek only yourself and you have forgotten about the tenderness your Father gave you, and it is recounted to you here, in Chapter 11 of Hosea. And you have forgotten how to give that compassion. The Heart of Christ is the tenderness of God. “How could I fail you? How could I abandon you? When you are alone, disoriented, lost, come to me, and I will save you, I will comfort you”.

Today, I ask you, in this retreat, to be pastors with the compassion of God. To leave the “whip” hanging in the sacristy and to be pastors with tenderness, also with those who create many problems. It is a grace. It is a divine grace, We do not believe in an ethereal God, we believe in a God who became flesh, who has a heart and this heart today speaks to us thus: “Come to me. If you are tired, oppressed and I will give you rest. But the smallest, treat them with compassion, with the same tenderness with which I treat you”. The Heart of Jesus Christ says this to us today, and it is what I ask in this Mass for you, and also for me.


It’s that time of the year when seeds are sown; plants begin to find their appropriate portions in the garden; time to get the hands dirty again. The scriptural readings presented at this time, as always, is very much in touch with the season. The readings use the image of farming and cultivation to portray God’s kingdom.

What can the Kingdom of God be likened to? We all have some notions of what a kingdom looks like; our cultural and social experiences often colour our understanding of a kingdom. Whether a sense of institution, tradition, affluence, territorial power and dominance, it often comes across as well structured and already made for anyone who is privileged to be part of it.

Like planting and seed sowing, we are presented with a non-stagnant notion of a kingdom; one that is involving and evolving; engaging and encouraging. There is a link between the present and the future; that link is about what we do now. Those who sow now will reap a good harvest.

There is a bit of parallel between the first reading and the gospel which does not contradict the notion of the God’s kingdom but enhances it.

  • In the book of Ezekiel the Lord God of creation takes the sole responsibility of planting. (I myself will plant) In the gospel parable of Mark it is a certain man; anonymous.

  • In the book of Ezekiel God knows exactly what he wants to plant and how; he “carefully” chooses a shoot from the top of the cedar to be planted on the high mountain of Israel. (A city – a kingdom built on a hilltop cannot be hidden) The gospel parable gives the impression that the seeds are “carelessly” “lavishly” and “generously” thrown to the lands. (Not only on a high mountain, down to the plains, God’s kingdom is spread; the wind of the Spirit blows where it wills)

  • In the book of Ezekiel, the omniscience and omnipotent God has fore knowledge that he will empower this plant to grow into the biggest of all shrubs, under which the birds from all nations will come to find shelter. The parable of Mark says this man is off and on; sleeps and wakes up, while the seed grows – how, he does not know. The second parable mentions the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds; but when it is sown, it grows to become the biggest of all shrubs. (It must be sown to grow into its full potentials; Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground it remains a single grain and bears no fruit)

  • Have the two scriptural passages of Ezekiel and Mark got anything matching almost word to word? Yes. There is a sower, a gardener; There is a seed, a plant; there is growth. There is harvest; the full potential of the plant, sheltering all winged creatures of the earth.

God’s kingdom is the whole heaven and earth. God’s kingdom is humanity. God’s kingdom is the Church. God’s kingdom is the kingdom of justice, love and peace. The seed of faith sown in us is graciously and charitably sown in hope of a rich harvest. The harvest expectation is the hope of resurrection which inspires our faith-actions. God’s kingdom is here, yet expected.

St Paul reconciles the first reading and the gospel as he encourages our good works to cooperate with God’s grace; for we shall give an account of our deeds. In other words, what you sow is what you reap.

The psalmist encourages us to give thanks to the Lord. Thanksgiving is often associated with harvest times but we are encouraged to give thanks to the Lord at all times; in season and out of season; in sowing and in harvest; in loss and gain. For the just will flourish like a palm tree and grow like a Lebanon cedar; planted in the house of the Lord, still bearing fruit when they are old; still full of sap still green; to proclaim that the Lord is just; in him there is no wrong.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) – Year B, 2015

As the traditional feast of the Jewish passover approaches, the disciples of Jesus approach their master to ask him where he wants them to make preparations for this important feast. The disciples understand quite well the tradition of keeping the passover meal within the home, which could extend to the neighbourhood, as required by the Law of Moses. It is a meal of communion and fraternal bond. Jesus directs them to a certain man’s home, just as in communion God makes the choice to make his home in us; and like the centurion we say, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The preparation for the Jewish passover is taken very seriously, just as in communion the preparation is very essential.

At the table for this meal, Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing, gives the bread to his disciples saying, “Take this and eat of it; this is my body”. It is real bread which becomes real body of Christ and wine that becomes the blood of Christ. Blessing and prayer of thanksgiving is central to this meal. It becomes both human nourishment and spiritual food. “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you, fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become for us our spiritual drink.” The liturgical action of offering up the fruit of our land and the wine of our vineyard in exchange of the body and blood of Christ is more represented in “the mystery of the wine and water in which we come to share the divinity of Christ who has humbled himself to share in our humanity”.

The bread is broken to be shared among as many as would desire him. “This is my body, broken for you, giving you wholeness, making you free, take this and eat it and when you do, do it in love for me.” Jesus offers the blessing cup to his disciples – “Take this all of you and drink from it”, he says, “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out and shed for you.” This bread is a gift to the hungry and not for the greedy. It is drink for the thirsty and not for those who abuse it. As the poverty of hunger and thirst reflect our own spiritual hunger and thirst, our spiritual nourishment prompts us to minister to the hungry and the needy.

The Church teaches that Christ is really present in the Eucharist – body, soul and divinity. This Eucharist as the Church teaches is the source and summit of our liturgical life. We approach the Eucharist with the most reverent disposition to God who is concealed in form of bread and wine.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all Praise and all Thanksgiving be every Moment Thine!

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Year B, 2015

Firmly I believe, and Truly, God is Three and God is One. For a believer in the Trinity it is both simple and complex. Simple, because the Church’s teaching on this is clear; complex, because it is a mystery too deep to be exhausted by human understanding. God is one and the same, active and alive in the Blessed Trinity – The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit; the God who is, who was and who is to come.

As humans, though limited we are, we do not expect others to know us perfectly well in other to accept or embrace us. We don’t need to prove our existence and the mode by which we exist for others to accept that we do exist.

You don’t necessarily have to see God, touch him and feel him sensibly or rationally like Thomas, in order to believe him. Blessed are those who have not seen (sensibly demonstrated experience) yet they believe.

The mystery of the Blessed Trinity could be understood in the personality of God expressed in the actions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in the entire mission of our salvation – namely, the Creativity of the Father, the Nativity of the Son and the constant Activity of the Holy Spirit. God the Father created, the Son through his incarnation has redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Father and the Son to continue the mission God started at creation.

It is the same God of our fathers, who continues to reveal himself in every time and age, in the person of Jesus Christ and the actions of the Holy Spirit. He comes to us according to the need of our time. The three persons in one God; equal in one substance; undivided unity. In the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, God becomes all things to all people. This is such that whenever and from which angle you approach God he has a suitable face to embrace you – the Father’s care, the Son’s compassion and the Spirit’s consolation.

The Blessed Trinity is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be lived. “Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.” We can only acknowledge this one true God only when we have the Spirit of Christ, which helps us cry out “Abba Father!”

The disciples, sent on mission were instructed to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” When we are baptised, we are welcomed into the communion of the Blessed Trinity, sent out on a mission to bring others to share in this communion. The very nature of the Church is her Life, Mission and Communion. Therefore, our communion is inspired by the Blessed Trinity; our mission is that of the Blessed Trinity and our ultimate goal is to share the life of the Blessed Trinity in eternity.

Pope Francis’ Homily on the Solemnity of Pentecost, 2015

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22); this is what Jesus says to us. The gift of the Spirit on the evening of the Resurrection took place once again on the day of Pentecost, intensified this time by extraordinary outward signs. On the evening of Easter, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed on them his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:22); on the morning of Pentecost the outpouring occurred in a resounding way, like a wind which shook the place the Apostles were in, filling their minds and hearts. They received a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim Christ’s Resurrection in different languages: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Together with them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple, there too as Mother of the nascent Church. With her peace, with her smile, with her maternity, she accompanied the joyful young Bride, the Church of Jesus.

The word of God, especially in today’s readings, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with himself; the Spirit makes them capable of recipere Deum [receiving God], capax Dei [with the capacity for God], as the holy Church Fathers say. And what does the Holy Spirit do with this new capability which he gives us? He guides us into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), he renews the face of the earth (Ps 103:30), and he gives us his fruits (cf. Gal 5:22-23). He guides, he renews and he makes fruitful.

In the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13). Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”, and explains to his disciples that the Spirit will bring them to understand ever more clearly what he, the Messiah, has said and done, especially in regard to his death and resurrection. To the Apostles, who could not bear the scandal of their Master’s sufferings, the Spirit would give a new understanding of the truth and beauty of that saving event. At first they were paralyzed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday. Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand “all the truth”: that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, the Lord of history and of the world. This truth, to which the Apostles were witnesses, became Good News, to be proclaimed to all.

Then the Holy Spirit renews – guides and renews – renews the earth. The Psalmist says: “You send forth your Spirit… and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30). The account of the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is significantly linked to this Psalm, which is a great hymn of praise to God the Creator. The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same. Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15). Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam. In this way, renewed by the Spirit, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation. In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator, as another Psalm says: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:2, 10). He guides, he renews and he gives; he gives fruits.

In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul wants to show the “fruits” manifested in the lives of those who walk in the way of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). On the one hand, he presents “the flesh”, with its list of attendant vices: the works of selfish people closed to God. On the other hand, there are those who by faith allow the Spirit of God to break into their lives. In them, God’s gifts blossom, summed up in nine joyful virtues which Paul calls “fruits of the Spirit”. Hence his appeal, at the start and the end of the reading, as a programme for life: “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:6, 25).

The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways. However, the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul lists them: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22). The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace. Strengthened by the Spirit – who guides, who guides us into the truth, who renews us and the whole earth, and who gives us his fruits – strengthened in the Spirit and by these many gifts, may we be able to battle uncompromisingly against sin, to battle uncompromisingly against corruption, which continues to spread in the world day after day, by devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.


Pope Francis’ Homily – Seventh Sunday of Easter – Year B, 2015

The Acts of the Apostles have set before us the early Church as she elects the man whom God called to take the place of Judas in the college of the Apostles. It is has to do not with a job, but with service. Indeed, Matthias, on whom the choice falls, receives a mission which Peter defines in these words: “One of these men… must become a witness with us to his resurrection”, the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:21-23). In this way Peter sums up what it means to be part of the Twelve: it means to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. The fact that he says “with us” brings us to realize that the mission of proclaiming the risen Christ is not an individual undertaking: it is to be carried out in common, with the apostolic college and with the community. The Apostles had a direct and overwhelming experience of the resurrection; they were eyewitnesses to that event. Thanks to their authoritative testimony, many people came to believe; from faith in the risen Lord, Christian communities were born and are born continually. We too, today, base our faith in the risen Lord on the witness of the Apostles, which has come down to us through the mission of the Church. Our faith is firmly linked to their testimony, as to an unbroken chain which spans the centuries, made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding generations of Christians. Like the Apostles, each one of Christ’s followers is called to become a witness to his resurrection, above all in those human settings where forgetfulness of God and human disorientation are most evident.

If this is to happen, we need to remain in the risen Christ and in his love, as the First Letter of Saint John has reminded us: “He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). Jesus had repeated insistently to his disciples: “Abide in me… Abide in my love” (Jn 15:4, 9). This is the secret of the saints: abiding in Christ, joined to him like branches to the vine, in order to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-8). And this fruit is none other than love. This love shines forth in the testimony of Sister Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve, who consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love.

A relationship with the risen Jesus is – so to speak – the “atmosphere” in which Christians live, and in which they find the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel, even amid obstacles and misunderstandings. “Abiding in love”: this is what Sister Maria Cristina Brando also did. She was completely given over to ardent love for the Lord. From prayer and her intimate encounter with the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist, she received strength to endure suffering and to give herself, as bread which is broken, to many people who had wandered far from God and yet hungered for authentic love.

An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, his disciples, in the image of his own unity with the Father. Today too, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus’ prayer on the eve of his passion: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of his poverty, his virginity and his obedience; and this same love calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer. Sister Mariam Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit. Her docility to the Holy Spirit made her also a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world. So too, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas came to understand clearly what it means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another.

To abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all. This is what the four women Saints canonized today did. Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians. How do I bear witness to the risen Christ? This is a question we have to ask ourselves. How do I abide in him? How do I dwell in his love? Am I capable of “sowing” in my family, in my workplace and in my community, the seed of that unity which he has bestowed on us by giving us a share in the life of the Trinity?

When we return home today, let us take with us the joy of this encounter with the risen Lord. Let us cultivate in our hearts the commitment to abide in God’s love. Let us remain united to him and among ourselves, and follow in the footsteps of these four women, models of sanctity whom the Church invites us to imitate.

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year B, 2015

Have you ever imagined the Church of our time going back to the model of the early Christian Community? Would that be seen as progressive or conservative approach, considering the nature and structure of the early Christian community? It was a basic Christian community; a close family of believers. They were faced with the difficulties of humble beginnings; they lived each day at a time. There was little or no ambition into the far future; they believed Jesus was returning soon – no time to waste with worldly preoccupation. Yet, they couldn’t escape from human challenges, including persecution. One of these challenges was the reality of opening up to new members. Shall we take them or not? Should we open our doors or shut them out? Are the pagans capable of conversion? Hasn’t God made his choice once and for all to select a particular people and tribe? Is the Good News and call to repentance we preach to them not enough? Do they have to be part of us – the elect?

It is against this background we can understand Peter’s address to Cornelius and the anonymous audience of this passage in Acts of the Apostles: “The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him”.

One thing about Peter is his constant confessions. He confesses both his Faith and his Frailty. Every now and again he lets his audience see through his humanity and ordinariness. In this passage he confesses the ‘truth’ which he has ‘now come to know.’ By this he acknowledges and confesses his past ignorance of the truth. He uses the first person singular pronounce “I” and not “we”. In doing so he distances the whole community of believers from his own personal ignorance. (Through my fault, through my fault, through my own most grievous fault!)

What is this great revelation to Peter which he could not keep in secret? ‘God does not have any favourites’. It does not matter what your personal story or background is; rather, the fear of the Lord (Faith in God) is the beginning of the wisdom of right judgement and actions, which is acceptable to God.

Peter had not gone as far as he would have loved to present his most likely long speech and theological discourse when the Holy Spirit interrupted Peter’s words with His actions; pouring down on all the listeners without discrimination of any kind.

Where we have limited words to express the mystery of our faith, the Holy Spirit supplies with actions beyond comprehension. The actions of the Holy Spirit is always ready to bear witness to God’s love. Love is the judge of every word and action that proceeds from us. This is not necessarily our love for God but His love for us. “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last…” We can only bear fruit of love as individuals and as a community of believers when we are truly open to the actions of the Holy Spirit.


The bond that exists in the three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is essentially the true mark of Christianity. The Church which proceeds from this community of love has the one mission of fostering the peace and harmony of those who have been gathered together in baptism as well as the entire children of God scattered throughout the world. In the Collect of the Mass this Sunday the whole Church prays that Almighty ever-living God may ‘constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism may, under your protective care, bear much fruit and come to the joys of life eternal.’

God the Father of Creation remains a faithful and dedicated gardener who prunes his children with care. Jesus is the true vine and his Father is the vinedresser. Jesus is the branch and we are the branches; in Christ, we live, move and have our being. Cut off from him, we can do nothing; we wither.

Like real plant that gets its nourishment from the fertile ground and distributes life across its branches, so we are spiritually nourished by God through Christ, in Him and with Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

We are not honorary members of the Church. Just as we are one with the true vine, we are true members of the Church, sharing God’s love that is real and active. We are baptised into the body of Christ to remain with the vine in continuous openness of being pruned to bear fruit. It is as if Christ appeals to his own body, the Church, to remain with him. It is one thing to fall in love, another thing to remain in love. It is one thing to be born into a family; to join a group; pick up a vocation or profession or become a member of an association, another thing is choosing to remain and with commitment. When we remain faithful, we bear fruit to the glory of God the Father; after which we can truly become disciples. Discipleship in this particular context refers to the act of witnessing. We are called to witness. Our mission is incomplete as disciples if we fail to bear witness to Christ. It is only by our fruits that we can be certain and others will know ‘that we are the children of the truth.’

Saul tried to join the disciples ‘but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple.’ (This ‘fear’ could have arisen from some cautious discernment or judgement and prejudice of the past) It took Barnabas to convince the disciples that Saul has really turned a new leaf; he is with us and not against us. Together with this ‘late comer’ the churches were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (Good Shepherd Sunday) – YEAR B, 2015

The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles starts in a very dramatic manner: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead…’”

This, of course, is what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit who gives us the joy of the Gospel, to proclaim it without fear, that those held in captive are liberated. Peter, has the privilege of explaining such mystery and amazing grace that has lifted him up from an ordinary fisherman, to become an agent of the Good News of the salvation of the whole world. He who was so afraid that he denied Jesus three times is now bold enough to acknowledge and confess him as the risen Lord. Thanks to the gift of Jesus, who has made this a reality. He is the stone which the builders rejected, which has become the corner stone.

Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. He does not rely on human approval or recommendation – he knows who he is – The Good Shepherd. St John’s core understanding of the good shepherd is that he is the very one who lays down his life for his sheep. In other words, apart from the other great qualities of the good shepherd like caring with great tenderness; voice identification and connection between the sheep and the shepherd; knowledge of the sheep; feeding and nurturing, sacrifice is the ultimate price which the good shepherd pays which is unrivalled by any other shepherd with great qualities. Can you love the sheep to the point of laying down your life for them as Jesus did? That is the core of this gospel message. This sacrifice is what we still celebrate at this Eastertide.

Sacrifice is not possible without the love which such self-giving expresses. In the First Letter of St John he tells us to think of the Love which the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called his children; and that is what we are. (Indeed, we are his children, the sheep of his flock). Love of Christ urges us; it is that driving force for our words and actions in Evangelization, as St Paul tells us.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, Christ appeals to us as individuals and as a community to think of the sacrifice of the Cross and respond with generosity. In times like this when in some parts of the world, the Church struggles with the number of vocations to the priesthood and Religious life, God appeals to us to respond to the sacrifice of the cross with that same joy with which Peter and other disciples were filled after the resurrection. The question is: what if the Good shepherd is calling you to help in the ministry to care and support those in real need of the gospel? Such people are no longer far away in a distant land; they are our next door neighbours.


Life is full of mystery. Even the simplest things we know can turn around and become mystery to us. It makes us think. It makes us want to be on our own to sit and ponder; other times it makes us take a walk with a friend or colleague to discuss it. Sometimes, we feel a little wiser and more informed, other times we are left with more uncertainties. Even in the wider perspective of our spiritual journey as Christians, we often need to wrestle with the mystery of faith that Christ has died, he is risen and that he will come back again. We need each other, every now and again to discuss, not only our faith but our fears, anxiety, challenges, disappointments and doubts, just as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus. It is in such walk of witness and journey together that we often encounter each other as well as feel the presence of Jesus who has always assured us that whenever two or more are gathered in my name, I am present.

For the disciples after the death of Jesus, the party was over. Ambition meets its dead end; high towered hope meets a devastating and shattering earthquake. Everyone must find his way. Some were beginning to head off from Jerusalem where their hope, apparently, has met its Waterloo. Two disciples were spotted discussing about this incident. They could not understand how the death of Jesus could be seen in any other way rather than a tragic incident. But Jesus, like any silent participant in an interesting discussion, couldn’t hold his breath forever. He breaks his silence; he speaks out and asks them what they were talking about. He takes them back to the Scripture and the Prophecy of Old, “was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer death and on the third day rise again?” It was not until the breaking of bread that they were able to recognise Jesus.

It may sound like a simple and common greeting of the time, “Peace be with you!” This was not just greeting but a gift to a people agitated, intimidated, hopeless and helpless; in fear and in doubt. It is a gift of consolation to a people who mourn for their loss. It is a mandate given to a people by their leader who has been unjustly treated. He does not ask them to take up arms and fight but to possess peace and share it even with their enemies.

He asks them to look at his hands and feet. Just like last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus shows his wounds. Sometimes, it is important for people to see our wounds and weaknesses. Weakness is not necessarily complete powerlessness; might and power is not necessarily a true exhibition of strength. It is the same Jesus, the wounded and the healed; who died and resurrected; He is not a ghost but Spirit. Ghosts appear and disappear, leaving us more agitated for fear that they may harm us. The Spirit is always present with us, giving us comfort and courage. Jesus’ word to his disciples remains: Do this in remembrance of me. And when you do, let it be done in love for me. Jesus is recognised in the Eucharistic breaking of bread. This can be our hope when we seem to have forgotten and lost our tracks; when we doubt; when we are discouraged and when we need healing and comfort. Our test can become a testimony. “You are witnesses to this.”