Catholic in Yanchep

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C | On the joy of being a sheep

San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura Good Shepherd Mosaic-600px

Christ the Good Shepherd, detail of mosaic from the Basilica of St Lawrence Outside the Walls, Rome (Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura).

Today’s Readings

I have some relations and friends who are scornful of my Christianity.  Though they don’t always tell me to my face, I can tell from their resigned and patient expressions, that they think I have a screw loose.  To believe that someone can rise from the dead, or that miracles occur?  Pffft.  Some of the more honest ones have told me I learn to think for myself and not be a sheep who follows the teachings of a patriarchal bronze age society.

This line of reasoning falls flat on its face when we look at actual case studies of atheists who have changed their minds and turned to Christianity.  Christians, it turns out, are no more stupid than the rest of society.  And they are much better at handling rejection than some of the popular victim groups around today, because the cross comes with the territory of being a Christian.  We’re not in it for its popularity or for success (some are, but this is only a characteristic of some branches of Protestantism).

Today, we’re celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday.  We’re celebrating the fact that the Shepherd in charge is good – he wants what is best for us – and we follow him because we love him.  I can honestly say to the people who doubt me, that the relationship I (and many others) have with this Shepherd, is one so filled with joy that nothing can take that away from us, not even suffering.  That’s because it’s a living relationship.  Not only does Jesus appear in the pages of the Bible, but he actually establishes a living and present relationship with us through prayer, Baptism, Penance, Holy Communion and the other Sacraments.  Jesus tells us, “the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me.” (John 10: 27 ff.)

The ‘prayer’ one is particularly important for hearing the voice of the Shepherd.  I have a 50 minute drive in to work every day, and over time, have developed a ritual of prayer for filling in the time: morning offering, prayer to the guardian angel of every member of my family, likewise a prayer to St Michael for family members, followed by a Divine Mercy chaplet and later the Rosary.  I’m not telling you this to show off, I actually want to share that I’m not very good at praying like this, because my mind keeps wandering off on tangents.  Anyway, I was getting pretty frustrated at the tendency of my mind to drift away from the actual words of the prayers, but then I had a revelation.  It started to seem to me that in some of these ‘wanderings’ I was hearing the voice of the Shepherd guiding me in thinking about the people I was praying about.  So I have started listening more intently to what I think he is saying to me.  How do we know we’re hearing the Shepherd and not the Thief?  If I am in doubt about a particular course of action that has come to me, I now write it down, and pray about it in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God for ‘more information’.  He will either confirm and strengthen the idea, and we will experience what St Ignatius calls consolation, or we will experience desolationMargaret Silf talks about this in her book, The Inner Compass.

It’s wonderful to be a sheep, to know I don’t have to re-invent everything as if I am a God unto myself, to be guided by one who is goodness, truth and beauty himself.  I love the obedience that being a sheep entails.  I love having the confidence that the Shepherd won’t let anyone steal me away from the Father.  And I love the hope that the Shepherd gives me for the other members of my family, even the ones who don’t trust him just yet …

Today’s readings

Word format: Year C Easter 4th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C Easter 4th Sunday 2016

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4th Sunday of Easter, Year B | Anzac Day and the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep

The Good Shepherd, Greek Orthodox Byzantine Icon, egg tempera on wood panel.

The Good Shepherd, Greek Orthodox Byzantine Icon, egg tempera on wood panel.

Today’s Mass readings:

Word format: Year B Easter 4th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B Easter 4th Sunday 2015

This year Anzac Day is celebrated on the same weekend as Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter.  Every year, the crowds attending Anzac Day ceremonies get bigger.   It is as if we humans instinctively understand sacrifice, our hearts know that sacrifice is crucial to salvation and we need to honour those who have made sacrifices in the service of others.  The Christian understanding of redemptive suffering adds value to our interpretation of the Anzac sacrifice.

Dom Carrigan CSSR draws some parallels between Easter and Anzac Day here:

Easter and Anzac Day are inextricably intertwined. Anzac Day always falls in the Easter season. They have marked differences, yet have much in common.

Both deal with suffering, sacrifice and death. At Gallipoli in Turkey, thousands of soldiers on both sides suffered terribly and died for their causes. At Calvary, Jesus, the Word of God- become-man, suffered terribly and died on a cross as a sacrifice for the world.

At Gallipoli, the Australian and New Zealand troops rejoiced that they were going to war. They wanted to test themselves internationally on the battlefield. At Calvary, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the ‘cup’ of suffering would be taken from him. Yet each faced the future with courage and conviction.

At Gallipoli, there were tens of thousands of soldiers and, in general, a tremendous spirit of mateship. At Calvary, Jesus was deserted by his own disciples (except for a few, mainly women) and felt completely abandoned.

At Gallipoli the soldiers had rifles, bayonets, guns, as well as other instruments of war to wound and to kill. At Calvary, Jesus was defenceless. He had even told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:11).

Gallipoli was a military defeat, yet it was regarded as a victory for the Anzac spirit as well as for the brilliant way Australian Brigadier-General Brudenell White organised the withdrawal of the troops. It was feared in Britain that they would ‘lose 25,000 men and many guns’ in the withdrawal (FitzSimons, Gallipoli p. 616).  In fact, unbelievably, there were no fatalities in the withdrawal.

Calvary was seen as a defeat for Jesus and his followers. Instead it turned out to be the necessary way to his victory. Jesus had said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26).

This year there will be celebrations greater than ever, both at Gallipoli and around Australia and New Zealand, because of the Anzac centenary. At Easter, millions of Christians will celebrate the triumph of Jesus over sin and evil and death.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says,

I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one
who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd;
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.

To understand more about the purpose of Jesus’ death and suffering, read on at The Sacred Page, where Dr John Bergsma goes in deep with today’s readings.  In fact it is Yeshua of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, the cornerstone rejected by the builders, who is the key to our salvation.  He knows us personally, and those who are seeking the truth will recognise his voice and he will speak to their hearts.  For some extra thoughts on Jesus knowing and loving you personally in the light of today’s readings, listen here.



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4th Sunday of Lent | Why do so many prefer darkness to light?

The Crucifixion, Isenheim Altarpiece, centre panel, Matthias Grünewald, 1512-1516, chapel of the Hospital of Saint Anthony, Isenheim, Germany, c. 1510-15, oil on wood, 9' 9 1/2" x 10' 9" Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France.

The Crucifixion, Isenheim Altarpiece, centre panel, Matthias Grünewald, 1512-1516, chapel of the Hospital of Saint Anthony, Isenheim, Germany, c. 1510-15, oil on wood, 9′ 9 1/2″ x 10′ 9″ Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France.

This week we saw the tragic death of 18 year old Australian suicide bomber, Jake Bilardi.  In a blog post from January 13, Bilardi says, “And that is where I sit today, waiting for my turn to stand before Allah (azza wa’jal) and dreaming of sitting amongst the best of His creation in His Jannah, the width of which is greater than the width of the heavens and the Earth.’’

How sad that in his search for God, he found the wrong one.  Carolyn Moynahan, in her article, Why do kids desert the West to fight with Isis, written well before Jake’s death, hits the nail on the head in her analysis.  And as Greg Sheridan says in his article in The Australian, “how long can the West live off the moral capital of religious conviction that it is now abandoning? The West is the only part of humanity abandoning religious belief. Can societies in which there is no overarching idea beyond the individual compete successfully in the long run?”

In our readings today, John invites us to turn to the right God while there is still time:

For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already

Of course, Westerners are likely to balk at the word ‘condemned’.  But of course it’s not God who condemns you, it’s your refusal to seek him that does.

Download today’s readings here:

Word format: Year B Lent 4th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B Lent 4th Sunday 2015

To understand  how God can be both merciful and yet allow people to be condemned, read the homily from Sacerdos.  And listen to Fr Barron explain God’s tender mercy here.


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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B | He taught them with authority and power

Jesus casts out an Unclean Spirit, illuminated manuscript, folio 166R, Tres Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, Limbourg Brothers, 1412-1416, Musee Condee, Chantilly, France.

Jesus casts out an Unclean Spirit, illuminated manuscript, folio 166R, Tres Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, Limbourg Brothers, 1412-1416, Musee Condee, Chantilly, France.

Apologies for not posting last week.  I am in South Africa visiting my mother who has been ill.  Your prayers for her would be greatly appreciated.

One of my friends recently told me it was her opinion that the Bible was ‘man-made’ and not inspired by God.  One of the many counter-arguments to this is the numerous fulfilments of Old Testament prophecy in the person of Christ.  In this week’s readings, Jesus reveals himself as the prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18 (First Reading).  The Gospel describes the astonishment of the people in the Synagogue as Jesus supports his authoritative teaching by carrying out an exorcism.

The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

Jesus didn’t just talk, his miraculous acts provided the evidence that here indeed was someone possessing supernatural power.

Word Format: Year B 4th Sunday

Pdf Format: Year B 4th Sunday

For a Scripture Study on this week’s readings, read Dr John Bergsma’s article here.

And to listen to Fr Robert Barron’s homily, click here.