The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on May 6 at the Knights of Columbus State Convention in Virginia Beach.
Our Blessed Lord uses many images to describe His relationship with us. Today, He projects before us one of these images, one that is so attractive and consoling: the image of the Good Shepherd. Listen again to Jesus' words: "I am the good shepherd."
Moreover, Jesus describes for us what a good shepherd is and does by contrasting the actions of a true shepherd and those of a hired man. "A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man " sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away." So, the true shepherd, the good shepherd, stays with the sheep, no matter what happens, loving them even to giving his life for them. The good shepherd is known by his unwavering love for the flock, even unto death.
Jesus indeed is the Good Shepherd. He stays among us in His Word and the Sacraments, especially and most visibly in the Blessed Sacrament — His Real Presence in the Tabernacles. Because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He feeds us, He leads us, He protects us. How does He do this? The Good Shepherd feeds us with His Life-giving Word in the Scriptures. Do we listen to His voice and reflect on the words of love He speaks to our hearts? He feeds also with His divine life in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Are we eager to experience His Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Penance? Are we hungering and thirsting for His very self, coming to us in the Eucharist under the signs of bread and wine, signs of nourishment and strength?
The Good Shepherd leads us, not only by the Truth of the Gospel, but also and in more tangible ways by the ministry of His ordained ministers: priests and the deacons who assist them. Through their preaching and teaching, through their pastoral care, the Lord leads us in the ways of holiness, goodness and truth.
The Good Shepherd protects us by keeping us united within His Church. We are members of the Body and as long as we remain within His Body, within the community of His disciples, we are kept safe from false teachings and erroneous practices. Moreover, we are supported by the powerful intercession of God's holy ones, the saints and first among them, by the Holy Mother of God, who is also our mother!
Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd — our Good Shepherd: Let us go to this Shepherd of our hearts, seeking to know Him more clearly, to love Him more dearly and to follow Him more nearly! All the more we must do this as Knights of Columbus, because we belong not to a club or organization, but in fact to an order, rooted in spiritual values. We belong to the Church in a very special way and to her Divine Founder, Jesus the Lord.
Jesus makes visible and present His image of the Good Shepherd through the life and ministry of each priest. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, the priest acts in the Person of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church. This weekend, the Universal Church is observing the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We need to pray daily for more priests and consecrated religious — sisters and brothers, so that now and in the future God's people may receive the pastoral care they deserve and need. The Knights of Columbus promote and support vocations in an outstanding manner and I echo the gratitude of my brother bishops, as well as my own, for your share in this apostolic work as well as for your unfailing care and support of bishops and priests.
Jesus the Good Shepherd tells us, "I know mine and mine know me." The more we know and love Jesus, the more does His love envelop us and enable us to love one another with His kind of love. If this should be the way all Christ's disciples live, how much more should it for us as Knights of Columbus and families of Knights! I assure you, dear brother Knights and family members of the Knights, when we love with the love of the Good Shepherd, we will be "making the difference"!
Jesus, Good Shepherd, feed us, lead us, protect us! Fill us with Your love, so that we will make all the difference today, tomorrow and every day until we meet You in the everlasting pastures of heaven. Amen.