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Good Shepherd Sunday

May 7

Written by:
5/7/2017 12:00 AM  RssIcon

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is commonly known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday,’ as every year a passage from the ‘Good Shepherd’ discourse is read from the tenth chapter of John’s account of the Gospel. Appropriately, it is a time that many parishes celebrate First Communions, it is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood. These celebrations are linked in such an intimate and powerful way: our young people come to the Altar of God for the first time, so that they may be nourished in their journey to find where God is leading them into the perfect joy He has outlined for them.

To help understand a passage of Scripture, it is always important to look at the context of what is happening around the passage, as that gives us an insight into the meaning of what Jesus is saying. Of note, chapter ten of John’s Gospel falls directly between the Man Born Blind and the Raising of Lazarus; towards the end of the public ministry of Jesus.

But it also happens during wintertime, around the Feast of the Rededication of the Temple, which we know today as Hanukah, the Feast of Lights celebrating the brief period of Jewish independence discussed in the two books of the Maccabees. This was a time that the shepherds had drawn their flocks into safer spaces for protection during the winter months. It was also a minor pilgrimage feast, so many of the shepherds would have been drawn into Jerusalem to celebrate at the Temple and with their family and friends. In John’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, this was the final stages of his public ministry, so the tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities would have been growing stronger and stronger, too.

But Jesus always has a way of identifying with the small and the seemingly unimportant. Sheep were everywhere in Israel at the time (And they still are!), and he holds up the intimacy between a good shepherd and his sheep: ‘I know them, and they know my voice,’ because he has spent so much time with them and has given his life for them to find freedom.

This is where the priest as ‘pastor and shepherd’ starts to enter into the mystery and the encounter. He must have a heart and mind for his people, knowing them and caring for them. As Jesus did, the role of the priest is to lay down his life so that his people might have life. This is symbolized in his ordination to the priesthood when he lays prostrate before the altar as a sign of complete submission to God in all that he is and does.

Finally, a personal note: it is a great joy to serve Jesus Christ as a priest, and to be shepherd of these two great parishes. I thank God every day for calling me to this ministry and for leading me to be assigned here, where I get to spend my life for you. Having five siblings who are married and raising families, I know the struggles that can be in family life, and I hope my ministry helps you in your task of raising the next generation.

God Bless,
Fr. Kyle Schnippel


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Re: Why do we place a white pall on the casket of the deceased at funeral Masses?
I have been wondering about that. Thank you for explaining it.

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