Following the Footprints of the Shepherd

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter

Following the Footprints of the Shepherd

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Of all the various movies, books and TV programs I have watched in my seventy-two years, it is the detective mystery that I enjoy the most. This is not to say that I don’t read other kinds of stories or watch other kinds of movies. However, I find myself gravitating to the mystery stories of Agatha Christie, Anne Perry, P.D. James, etc. when I look through the shelves of the local library.

Looking for evidence in a “who-done-it” takes up a great deal of the energy of the forensic teams that investigate crimes. One piece of evidence that sometimes leads to the culprit is a footprint or tire track in the mud. Plaster casts are made and the make and model of the car is quickly discovered. Shoe size and the type of footwear can point to the culprit as well.

The First Letter of St. Peter, from which we read today, also tells us to pay attention to footprints – the footprints of the shepherd. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps” (I Peter 2:21). Though the translation uses the word footsteps, the original Greek might better be translated “footprints.”

If we had been following Jesus on his way to Calvary as he carried the beam of wood on his shoulders, I am sure that the footprints that he left behind would have been bloody. By the time he was walking to Calvary, he had been savagely beaten. His skin would have been torn by the scourges and buffets he received at the hands of his torturers. It is these bloody footprints that St. Peter encourages us to follow because these footprints show how much Jesus suffered for our sake.

Stories of suffering fill our current news media. Our country is in the grip of a terrible virus; thousands have already died and thousands more will follow. Even in the midst of this suffering, there are many in our communities who are protesting the stay-at-home orders. People who choose to obey the orders are being mocked and told that they are allowing our freedoms to erode. Despite the heavy evidence to the contrary, they believe that they can escape the virus.

I fear that they will learn of their foolishness too late. The number of cases of the Coronavirus has tripled in some states where protests have occurred. Yet people refuse to wear masks and to stay at home.

St. Peter continues: “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

Living for righteousness means living in right relationship with God and our neighbor. It seems to me that applying this principle to our current situation means that our relationship with one another should be done from a distance so that we do not put others at risk. Even those of us who live in community are urged to “keep our distance.” Rather than losing our freedoms, social distancing is simply a way to preserve life and our health. When we come out of this tragedy, we will find a way to repair the damage that has been done. We are all in this together. As Jesus sacrificed himself for us, we are now called to sacrifice some of the aspects of normal life simply to keep others safe. To disregard this situation is selfishness that stands in glaring opposition to the selflessness we were taught by our Savior.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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