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May 8, 2022, Fourth Sunday of Easter - Pastor’s Corner

Happy Mother’s Day!  I once asked a group of elementary school children: “what is the most important gift that your mom ever gave you?”  After a few responses about special Christmas and birthday toys, I hinted “You need it every day, and it starts with the letter L.”  Immediately, a little boy cried out, “Lunch!”  When my chuckling about the inherent virtues of a well made PB&J subsided, I coaxed: “It begins with L, ends with E and is four letters long.”  A number of voices sang out: “Love.”  I replied: “Yes, love is the greatest gift for sure, but there’s even a more important, more foundational gift that we tend to take for granted. “It begins with L, ends with E, is four letters long and rhymes with WIFE.”  Eager to be lauded, a universal chorus rang out: “Life!”  

Mothers give life. They nurture life. They devote their life to the lives of their children.  In recognition of their role as givers and sustainers of life, we honor all of our mothers both living and deceased.  As one of our children put it: “we love mom, because she is MOM!” On this weekend, when we celebrate Mother’s Day, we call to mind the prophet Isaiah who speaks of God’s love for us using maternal language: As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you (Is. 66:13).  The instinctual and potent bond that forms between mother and child shapes our understanding of God’s unconditional care for us, especially in times of need.  Just as our mother gives us life, so too, it is God’s love that creates and sustains us.   

Providentially, on this Mother’s Day we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday.  Reflecting on Christ the Good Shepherd helps us to understand the spiritual significance of Mother’s Day.   At the heart of this celebration is the gift of life.  In contrast to shepherds who work for money or some other selfish motive, Jesus is a shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for his flock. The tender love, compassion, and courage of our Good Shepherd gives us confidence that he is with us wherever we are in life’s journey.  As the Psalmist says: “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Ps. 23) Our sacrificial shepherd is always at our side to guide us and to lead us to places of good grazing.

The most dynamic way that our Good Shephard feeds us is through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  For this reason, this weekend we celebrate First Communions. It is always such a joy to witness our children receive Communion for the very first time. Their enthusiasm invites me to once again treasure the gift of the Eucharist.  Like the apostles, we struggle to live the command we hear in this week’s Gospel to love another.  Jesus calls us to listen to his voice and follow him.  The cacophony of selfishness, resentment, and indifference can cause us to stray. If we’re honest, we struggle to keep to the narrow road of happiness.  But through regular communion, we are given the strength to listen and follow wherever our Good Shepherd leads. On this Mother’s Day, we give thanks to our moms for the gift of life we’ve received. We give ear to the Good Shepherd’s voice in our life. We give thanks for the gift of the life of Christ which nourishes us in the Eucharist. May the new life promised by our Resurrected Shepherd fill our lives as we continue the celebration of Easter!

~ Fr. Michael 

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