4th Sunday of Easter – May 12, 2019
Mother’s Day Adoption Mass 

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of the most enduring images from the scriptures that touches our hearts and provides us with a sense of comfort and peace.  …  While our familiarity with specific passages from the scriptures can at times be challenging, most every one of us know the beginning words of the 23rd Psalm:  “The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.  In verdant pastures, he give me repose.  Beside restful waters, he leads me.  He refreshes my soul.”

Most of us seem to appreciate these passages, despite the fact that in our day and age – in our culture – the vast majority of us aren’t at all familiar with shepherds and sheep.  Why, then, does this image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd resonate so much with our spirits?

I suspect that the answer is found in the words of Jesus that we hear proclaimed this morning.  “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  …  No one can take them out of my hand.”  …  “I know them, and they follow me.”  …  Who wouldn’t appreciate these words?  We all want to be known and loved.

And what Jesus is saying is that there is familiarity – a God-initiated relationship between him and each member of his flock.  He knows us and we, in turn, know him and seek – even if feebly – to follow after him.  More than anything else, this passage captures the essence of our Christian faith, doesn’t it?  “GOD – not us – but GOD – so loved the world – so loved you and me – that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Don’t ever discount the value of what it means to be known by another and appreciated for who we are – which is at the heart of the faith that we profess this day.

In a day and age, when so much of our identity is wrapped up in numbers and passwords – from Social Security numbers to passcodes for our phone, our bank account or just about everything else – there’s a risk of losing something of our unique identity.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd of today’s gospel, beckons us to look at life in a very different way than we and our world often view it.  “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  He calls us to listen consciously and deliberately for his voice in the depths of our hearts – to listen for his voice in the love and joy, the pain and anguish, the cries for mercy and justice that we see and hear all around us.  And Jesus assures us that we are always safe and accepted in the loving embrace of his Father – that we have infinite value because we’re made in the image and likeness of God – that we are far more important for that reason alone than any passing thing or object or number or category in our world.

In God’s providence, we celebrate Mother’s Day today.  While this day has become many different things to many different people and families, the origins for this day, which date back to Civil War times, are profound in nature.

In 1868, Anna Reeves Jarvis wanted to organize a special day for mothers who had sons fighting on opposing sides of the Civil War.  So Mother’s Day was originally intended to honor mothers who worked to promote a sense of harmony and reconciliation in their families and in our land.  When it was finally established as a national holiday on the second Sunday of May in 1914, it simply was meant to honor mothers for the many sacrifices that they made for their children and the treasured gift of their lives.

For all of its sentimentality that can cause us at times to lose touch with the heart of its real meaning, doesn’t this day – Mother’s Day – cause us to reflect upon the essence of the gospel message for this 4th Sunday of Easter?  …  Selfless love.  …  Forgiveness.  …  Unconditional acceptance.  …   Hope.  …  All of the qualities that a mother seeks to impart to her child whom she knows and loves so well.

As we reflect upon the women – mothers, grandmothers and caregivers – who have nurtured and cared for our lives, recall the words of Jesus and give thanks.  …    “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.”