4th Sunday of Easter – May 8, 2022
Mother’s Day Adoption Mass

 The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of the most endearing images from the scriptures, isn’t it?   We’re all familiar with and appreciate at least the beginning words of the 23rd Psalm:  “The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.”  These simple words provide us with a sense of consolation and peace that we all seek in life, don’t they?

It’s strange, however, that few if any of us are at all familiar with shepherds and sheep.  All we likely know is that sheep are pretty docile animals, somewhat heartwarming in appearance and demeanor – and likely quite vulnerable to other animals.

Perhaps in some way, these simple, rather defenseless animals resonate with our spirits, at least when we reflect upon ourselves in relationship to God and particularly to the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  As Jesus himself reveals, his purpose in watching over his flock is simple:  to care, to nurture and to protect.

Listen to the words of Jesus proclaimed in the gospel 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.

When we probe a bit into the image of the Good Shepherd and the words of Jesus, what emerges is familiarity – a God-initiated relationship between Jesus 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 – a reality that lies at the heart of the faith that we profess this day.

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 are forgiven time and again – that we have infinite value not because we are righteous or because of what we do or don’t do, but because we’re made in the image and likeness of God – and that we are far more important for that reason alone than for anything we do, become or possess.

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 rather 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.  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 the commercialization and hype 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 – this Good Shepherd Sunday?  …  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.

So during our worship today, may we especially give thanks for those women – our mothers, grandmothers and caregivers – who have nurtured and cared for us, their children, and have taught us that it is possible to love as Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  …  They also remind us that each of us is given the power and responsibility to become like them:  vehicles for God’s very presence in the world, not just by opening our lives to his love, but making it our own and giving it away.