Fourth Sunday Easter A 4/13/08

Homily — 4th Sunday of Easter A                 4-13-08

I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord,
I know my sheep, and mine know me

Jesus used the image of a Shepherd to describe both His love and care for us and His Heavenly Father’s love and constant care for us.

Jesus also called the leaders of the Church He founded to Feed His lambs and Tend His Sheep, not as hirelings and certainly not as wolves or robbers, but as Good Shepherds who are willing to go after the lost sheep, tend to the sick and the young sheep, and even lay down their lives for the sheep all out of love for Christ and the Sheep He entrusts them with.

It is very providential that we read this Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter just days before the chief Shepherd of the Catholic Church on earth, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, or as some like to affectionately call him, our German Shepherd, visits the United States for the first time since his election as Pope.

This is the Holy Fathers itinerary this week . . . . .

Tuesday — DC
3:30PM Arrives at Andrews Air Force Base greeted by President and Mrs. Bush, local dignitaries of the Church, and the apostolic nuncio.

10:00 AM  welcoming ceremony at the White House,  followed by a private meeting between the President and the Pope, and the dignitaries of New York and Washington.

5:00 PM  gathers with the bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

9:30 AM  offers Mass at the new Nationals Park in Washington D.C.

4:30 PM  will address hundreds of Catholic Educators on the importance of Catholic education at the Catholic University of America.

6:00 PM meets with representatives of various religions for a prayer service at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington D.C.

Friday — NYC
10:30 AM. will address the United Nations, after an early morning flight to New York.

5:00 PM  Visit to Park East Synagogue followed by a prayer service with leaders from other Christian denominations at St. Joseph’s, founded by German Catholics, in Manhattan.

9:00 AM Mass for priests, deacons and members of religious orders at St. Patrick¹s Cathedral in the heart of New York City.

4:00 PM  meets with thousands of young people from around the country at Dunwoodie Seminary in Yonkers.

9:00 AM  visits Ground Zero, the former World Trade Center site.

2:00 PM  celebrates Holy Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York bringing his historic U.S. visit to a close.

7:30 PM  Pope Benedict XVI leaves the US.

To prepare us for his visit the Pope wrote a letter to us.  Click here for a link to the video of the Pope reading this letter.  Here is the text of the letter . . . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the United States of America,

The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will. The risen Lord entrusted the Apostles and the Church with his Gospel of love and peace, and his intention in doing so was that the message should be passed on to all peoples.

At this point I should like to add some words of thanks . . . . I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all. Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavors would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.

Together with your Bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: “Christ our hope”. Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world. Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This “golden rule” is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
May God bless you all.

Let us pray, my brothers and sisters, for our Shepherd Pope Benedict as he visits our country this week, that his visit will draw us and our whole nation closer to Christ the Good Shepherd.

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