Fourth Sunday of Easter

When I was young, I enjoyed it a lot when my mom took me along to the market. Now the market is full of distractions. I had no money, so I couldn’t buy anything. But there were lots of things to see, things that grabbed all your senses like fruits and vegetables of various colors, sizes, and shapes; freshly slaughtered animal carcasses hanging from hooks, their severed heads neatly lined up in a row staring at nothing, live chickens in bamboo cages, fish on display still gasping; shellfish, snails, live crabs all scurrying about noisily in big barrels; choice cuts of meat laid out, and internal organs separated in buckets; right there along with simple home-made toys, colorful kites, firecrackers and other noisemakers.

I would stop to look at them, and find ways to convince mom my life would be greatly improved if I owned one or two of them, without success. She was never in any mood to be sidetracked. But I tried.

A few times I lingered longer than I should. And when I looked up, she was gone. I knew I had to find her or I would never see my family again. I wasn’t going to starve to death in some dark corner. That was the worst that could happen. And as far as I was concerned, that was not going to happen. Not today.

And I’m here today, so you know I found my mom.

Sheep do not only know the voice of their shepherd, they probably know his smell, too, and how he did things, his little shepherd habits. He would walk ahead of them out of the sheep pen, and they would hear his voice and follow him. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd well enough, that they also know when someone else is calling them.

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific / Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

We say Jesus is our shepherd, and we are the sheep of his flock. It is important then that we know his voice, so we can follow him confidently. Jesus will not lead us astray. But if we do not know our shepherd’s voice, there’s a danger some stranger will call us away instead. And you know, mom and dad always tell you not to go with strangers. So it is important that we know the voice of Jesus our shepherd.

A shepherd takes care of his sheep. He keeps them from danger, away from cliffs and thorny bushes and dangerous rivers, from wolves and vultures, from lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), from thieves who might steal the sheep, and sell them, or cook and eat them. Instead a shepherd gives them a safe place for the night, and enough to eat and drink, and room to play. Sometimes the sheep can get lost, and the shepherd goes looking until he finds them. And if they get hurt or wounded, he takes care of them until they are better.

Today is a special day. Jesus our Good Shepherd shares with us food to nourish our bodies and souls. But unlike others, Jesus gives us food and drink that are his own flesh and blood. It’s not as strange as it sounds. When we eat foods like fried chicken and hamburger and bacon, we are eating the flesh of animals that were once alive. Even when we eat fruits and vegetables, we eat what were once living plants.

So in the mass, we take to God bread and wine. They are changed by Jesus’ own words into his sacred Body and Blood. And we receive them back in our own hands, no longer bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Jesus, which nourishes the life of God within us.

If we want to stay alive, we don’t eat and drink just once. Jesus gives us his Body and Blood each time we gather for mass. And the Word of God also nourishes us, so we must listen attentively to the message that is proclaimed. Our Good Shepherd keeps us safe and well nourished, so that we can best enjoy the life that God gives us.

Always stay close to Jesus. Listen for his voice. Pay attention to his Word. And treasure above all the gift of his Body and Blood.

Rolo B Castillo © 2017