Good Shepherd's Sunday (2016)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 10th April 2016 in Prague, Czech republic
In St. John's Gospel we have eight statements starting with “I am“. They are the characteristics which are essential to God and they are of great importance for our supernatural life and our eternal bliss.
Christ, God's Son, says of himself: “I am the living bread, I am the light of the world, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the way, and the truth and the life, I am the resurrection, I am the true vine.“
I am the living bread (John 6:48) – the bread which has the force to nourish the soul. This is not just a metaphorical expression but the truth. So many saints lived only from this bread: Saint Catherine of Genoa, Theresa of Konnersreuth, Marie-Julie Jahenny, Saint Nicholas of Flüe, the patron saint of Switzerland - they all lived only from the Holy Communion for many years.
And the Redeemer adds: “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.“ and a little later he says: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” (John 6:51, 54, 55)
I am the light of the world (John 8:12) – the light which enlightens the souls and conducts them to eternal life. He that does not follow me, walketh in darkness.
So many scientists have invented great things, but they did not have the true knowledge, the knowledge which man needs for his eternal bliss.
In my school days I had teachers who knew many things but they lived in disordered relationships, they believed in Darwin's theory of evolution, they denied Christ's divinity, virginal conception of Christ, they denied hell and did not receive any sacraments.
I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) – it is today's Gospel. In the Holy Scripture we find many shepherds who failed. “Am I my brother's keeper?“, said Cain. Yes, he was his brother's keeper, he was responsible for his brother's soul, too. And finally those many leaders and kings of the chosen people who led their people astray, they were seducers, not shepherds.
And then the Good Shepherd came who did not herd for payment but in his own interest. He was not a rented employee, he was not a hireling but a good shepherd. He followed every lost sheep and he still does so today. He went at the head of his herd and led it on good pasture. The sheep know his voice.
Years ago someone stole many sheep from a shepherd in Germany. This shepherd then learned that in Cologne's train station thousands of sheep were being exported to foreign countries. He went there and screamed into the herd. And his sheep heard his voice and gathered around him.
We already find the image of the Good Shepherd in the catacombs, those first worship rooms in Rome, deep under the earth. The Good Shepherd was a comfort for the persecuted Christians. He gave them the force to sacrifice their lives for him.
I am the way (John 14:6) – not a way among many others but the way! There is only one way: Christ. Those who do not take this way will not reach their goal. The dogma “Outside the Church there is no salvation“ also finds the support just in this verse.
I am the truth (John 14:6) – There is no truth except Christ. The saints therefore did not want anything else but to get to know Christ. “Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.“ (John 17:3)
In the Creation we can already see eternal verities, eternal laws; laws which are valid forever: mathematical, esthetical, moral laws. They were valid 1000 years ago and they will be just as valid in 1000 years as today. They must have the eternal support and this support is God. And since Christ is God, he can say: “I am the truth.“
I am the life (John 14:6) – Many things which we note here in the world are limited: truth, beauty, life. Their perfection is limited. The record of an accident, a book, a business report can report something true but their truth is limited. A bird may be beautiful, a house may be beautiful, a flower may be beautiful, but their beauty is limited. Life, too, is limited! It is always limited.
These qualities must have the support which is unlimited and this support is God. Since Christ is God, he can say: I am the life. He did not get it from anyone.
I am the resurrection (John 11:25) – Christ alone is risen by his own force. All men who had been risen from the dead, had been risen but died again: Lazarus, the young man of Naim, the daughter of Jairus, Tabitha and Eutychus. Also those deceased which Matthew mentions in the 27th chapter (verse 52) and who, when Jesus died, came out of their tombs and appeared to many in Jerusalem, went back to their tombs. They will rise to live or to be judged at the resurrection of the Last Judgement.
Christ alone is risen by himself by his own force. We must die with him so that we may rise with him.
I am the vine (John 15:1) – Like the branches which have to abide in the vine so that they may exist, we have to abide in Jesus Christ. The mysterious Body of Christ with his life of grace flows trough us, strengthens us, and nourishes us. All souls which live in the state of grace are connected with one another in this mysterious Body.
All inhabitants of heaven, all souls in purgatory, and all souls living in the state of grace here on Earth belong to this mysterious Corps. They may help each other and pray for each other.
Let us look at the beginning and at the end, at the alpha and at the omega, at Christ, let us look at God, and we will not miss our eternal destination.
The liturgy of Easter time will make us conscious time and again of these fundamental contents of our faith:
Christ is the living bread, the light of the world, the Good Shepherd, the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection and the vine. - Amen.