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The Good Shepherd Is the Only Entryway to Happiness

by Fr. Gabriel Stack, O.Praem.

 

The Gospel of John seems almost misplaced for the Easter season. Until we recognize in it how Jesus shows us His love and concern for all the time after His resurrection.

The Gospel of John gives us the opportunity to reflect more thoughtfully, more deeply, on how well we listen to the Passover Lamb Who is now our Paschal Lord; how well we pay attention to the voice of the Good Shepherd Who calls His own by name and leads His sheep– through the gate of His body and blood — to the true happiness which begins on this earth and continues long after it.

Everyone who enters through the true gate, which is Jesus, finds salvation and life. For the faithful disciple enters the flock of which Jesus alone is the Shepherd.

There is a corollary to Jesus identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd and the one gate which opens to the green pastures of true happiness. Namely, there are false shepherds and wrong gates.

Jesus condemns those who presume to teach without having been sent by His Heavenly Father. They speak on their own authority and for their own glory and for their own profit. It’s not surprising that when trouble comes they abandon rather than attend.  Desert rather than defend. Forsake rather than fortify. Jesus labels these false shepherds as “thieves and robbers” in the Gospel.

Jesus condemns not only our false shepherds but also those who set themselves up as direct competitors to our Heavenly Father.  These are our false priorities which give a greater prominence to some created thing rather than the Creator of all things. Yet, experience proves time and time again that neither power, nor money, nor things bring us the happiness we truly seek.

Once here on Laguna Canyon Road, I pulled up behind a very expensive sports car at the stoplight.  Around the vanity plate were the memorable words “He who dies with the most toys wins.” I decided I didn’t need to follow this driver any farther than the intersection; we were following separate paths.

This was a deliberate decision on my part.  Unfortunately, most of my decisions, like most of yours, are not deliberate.  They are habitual.

Years of Catholic education notwithstanding, you and I have been raised in homes with TVs and radios.  Our thoughts, manners of expression, and judgements about the world, our neighbor, and ourselves have been determined primarily by what we learned from TV — even if there were just three channels and all of them black and white.  This means that we recognize the theme song from I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver more easily than the Tantum Ergo or the O Salutaris at Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Thanks to excellent U.S. marketing departments and a lack of reflection on our part, our wants have become our needs.  And each one clamoring to be its own false god. We falsely believe that if just had this or that additional thing – we’d be truly happy – at last.

If this is true for us, who had only three black and white channels, we should not be surprised or scandalized to see what false gods are honored in those generations who have hundreds of channels, pay-per-view, and 24/7 internet access.  

This Easter season is the time for us “faithful, church-going Catholics” to stop and notice if we are following some sports car or if we’re following the Good Shepherd.  

Everyone who understands the Gospel recognizes that Jesus is presenting a demanding message.  We cannot continue to live as we did before. The Good Shepherd, risen from the dead, has gone before us to illumine a new way, the high road, to the true gate of heaven.

Our celebration of this Easter liturgy provides us with a frank examination of conscience so that we can be converted to a truly Christian life within the sheepfold of Jesus Christ — now and forever. Amen.

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