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My Dear Family in Christ,

This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of  Easter, we move away from the hours and weeks after the Resurrection of our Lord and more deeply into what new life in Christ looks like. This weekend every year we hear a part of John chapter 10, which contains very memorable lines, such as: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” and, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,” and, “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

For me Good Shepherd Sunday speaks strongly of the reality of the priesthood. Pope Francis reminded us that the shepherd must have the “smell of the flock,” a rustic image about being among and close to those entrusted to our care. It reminds me of the obligation to be close to the flock but more importantly of the love needed to serve as a shepherd (not a hireling).

This weekend we are also hip deep in our Message Series: Mother Knows Best and for the next two weeks we will be celebrating First Holy Communion with our children and their families. So what is the relationship between these realities?

The Good Shepherd is a sacrificial lover. And who better to demonstrate sacrificial love than mothers? Moms are wonderful examples and teachers of sacrificial love. Consider how many mothers throughout history have given their lives in childbirth so that the child may live. But here is a story closer to home. As a kid, whenever we would make a sudden stop, Mom’s arm would shoot out against our chests to (supposedly) protect us from impact. Call it a human seat belt. We pointed out to Mom that an accident would probably tear her arm off or at least injure her shoulder, rather than protect us, but she said “It is instinct.” In other words, she couldn’t help it. Mom showed a willingness to cause herself harm to protect her babies. In many ways, Moms teach us what sacrificial love looks like. Good shepherds imitate good mothers.

Knowledge is another commonality between shepherds and moms. Jesus says, “I know mine and mine know me.” He calls them by name and they follow him. Moms and mother figures know us the best. They know when we are sick and when we need a hug. Shepherds and Moms pay attention to their “flocks,” to those entrusted to their care, in a unique way. I didn’t really understand this kind of knowledge until I welcomed my dog Gracie Mae into my life. Often now she just looks at me and I know what she needs. Jesus knows what we need before we ask him.

A beautiful connection also exists between the Good Shepherd, Mothers, and the Eucharist. In this moment we notice that the Church too is our Mother. The Church has been entrusted with the custody of the Sacraments. The H0ly Spirit animates her very being so that She can pass along the living tradition and the grace of divine life in Christ. As a Mother, the Church loves us sacrificially and knows what we need as her children. Many sacrifices have been made in the life of the Church for us to arrive at this moment with the Sacraments available daily in our parish. The priesthood - in which I unworthily share - provides a Sacramental life to our community. It is rooted in the Church’s being and receives its life from the great chain of sacramental life and priesthood stretching back to Christ himself. We might see reality as the sacramental progeny of the Church. She births us in baptism; nourishes us with the eucharist; cleanses us of sin in confession; and fills us with the graces we need to live that new and abundant life in Christ. Through the Church, Christ Jesus gives life and love to his spiritual brothers and sisters, in order that we too might live lives of sacrificial love.

Today, we welcome some young people from our parish family to enter into a Sacramental Life in a new and powerful way by receiving Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist. With the Sacraments, preparation and disposition are so important. We do not receive grace by magic, but in accord with the openness and longing in our hearts. Our children have been preparing with their families and catechists. We pray they are open and well-disposed to receive the powerful grace of the Sacrament, and so begin this new phase of their adventure with a life rooted deeply in Christ and the Sacraments.

In prayer, I lift you up to the Lord that your life may become a more perfect reflection of sacrificial love.

In Christ,
Fr. Wilson

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