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  • Dyann Maldonado

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord

We continue to pray for Father Miller as he attempts to recover from illness. And I know it's somewhat difficult for you because you never know who you're going to get. On a given weekend, we have reached the bottom of the barrel. My name is Father Matthew Kauth, and for those of you I don't know. I work at the seminary in the rectory of Saint Joseph College Seminary and it's a pleasure to be here with you. I have been here a million times, but in many years gone by as well. So, it's good to be back.

In the sixth chapter of John's gospel, which we commonly call the Bread of Life discourse, it begins with our Lord feeding the 5000. And Saint John makes an interesting comment on that, because when Jesus has the people recline and he's about to feed them. Saint John mentions in his gospel there was a lot of green grass there. It seems like a throwaway line. Why would he bother with so few pages of a gospel and so few things to recount in space and time of all that our Lord did as he himself says, if I recounted everything that all the books in the world would contain it, why waste one line to say a lot of green grass? It is what the scholars call a memory hook. Imagine Saint John, years after our Lord has ascended into heaven and the island of Patmos exiled, recalling those moments of the one that he loves as the beloved Disciple himself. And he finally sees what happens. So often in John's Gospel, as you've noticed, no doubt that our Lord says one thing, and everyone understands something else.

They keep missing each other, as for example, with Nicodemus when he says, unless you be born from above again, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. And Nicodemus, rightly scratching his temples, thinks to himself, how in the world am I going to fit inside my mom again? And if his mother was there, she'd be saying, no way, right? But doesn't get it. In other words, speaking about something different, they constantly miss each other. But in this case, no doubt John mentions it because he sees the fulfillment of the good Shepherd. Why mention green grass? Because here's the shepherd about to feed them, and in this case, not with grass. He has them recline on the grass, and he feeds them with bread and with fish. All in anticipation of feeding them with himself and so, when you hear perhaps that favorite psalm of most Psalm 23, when you when you hear Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want fresh and verdant green, or the pastures where he gives me repose. John remembered the green grass, and he understood now with the light of the Holy Spirit, he knew why our Lord did what he did in fulfillment of that song and yet there's more to that Psalm than just the green grass and the feeding. And it's an aspect that you and I perhaps don't want to see. I would rather stop at the green grass and wanting for nothing. But the psalm goes on. Though I walk in the midst of darkness, I will not fear, because you are with me the question that is begged here is, why in the world would a good shepherd lead you into a dark valley? Wouldn't a good shepherd keep you in the sun? Wouldn't he make sure that you fed and frolicked on the hillsides as opposed to a dark and barren valley? And yet the psalm goes on. You have set a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. Why would the shepherd feed them with foes all around them? He is the good shepherd. But that doesn't make it easy. He takes you where he is going to go. Once there was a man by the name of Solzhenitsyn. You probably know who he is. A great Russian author. And in the time of the Soviet communism, he was one of the agents and because the only moral principle of the Soviets was whatever's best for the party, they typically betrayed each other because there is no morality. I remember this line that he said when he himself was betrayed and lying in a Russian gulag before he exposed it later on, and all the terrors and atrocities of Russia, he said, as he's lying in prison on a bed of rotting straw.

I thought my whole life wrongly about prosperity. Praise you, prison, for if you had not grabbed me, I would not have found my lord. How strange is that? He's lying on a bed of rotting grass, and it is the very place in which he encountered Christ. Remember, after our Lord feeds the 5000. They come after him, and he turns around and says, you're not following me because you've heard my word, or because you've seen signs, much less that the fact that you think that I'm God, you're only following me because I fed you bread is the lowest possible gift I could give you. It's the prosperity gospel. But life, as Solzhenitsyn says in that passage, is not about prosperity in the human sense. It is about the education of the soul. I want to learn to feed on Jesus Christ, on His word, on his presence. I want to know him. And if that's the case, then nothing can actually hurt me. I can walk through a dark valley, not by myself, none of the darkness of sin away from him, isolated and alone and frightened. But I walk next to him, and I will go where he goes. It's like the beautiful line from Ruth I will go where you go. I will lie down. Where you lie down, I will eat what you eat, and I will die where you die. All with the knowledge that that's not the end of the story. And the beautiful thing about Easter is those who have walked through the dark valley with him get to see the sunrise.

There's a beautiful line in Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians, which you hear every time you go to a wedding, perhaps. Right. Love is patient, love is kind. And everyone's been married for 25 years. I know about that. And but at the end, he says Caritas know it. It's a beautiful line. But charity does not go away. It doesn't die, it doesn't leave. That is to say, friendship with Christ if you know him. But you got to ask yourself that question. Do you know his voice? Does he know yours? If you know him, if you are friends with him, then the very last beat of your heart on this earth is the first beat of your heart in eternity. That charity doesn't go away. Friendship with Christ does not go away, though everything else does. We conquer overwhelmingly. Saint Paul says, because of him who has loved us. And that is worth and Alleluia!

In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit.



Homily begins at 26:51

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