Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Want To Hold Your Hand

I preached at the "Children's Church" Mass this Sunday, so I have notes for you rather than the full text of a homily...

   Fourth Sunday of Easter   C 

Why do people hold hands?
1. A man and a woman: to show their love
2. A parent and child, teacher and student: for safety
            (That’s why we don’t hold a stranger’s hand)
3. A family around the supper table: to pray

One of the ways Jesus talks about himself
            is as a shepherd—the Good Shepherd
What does that make us?  His sheep
In this Sunday’s Gospel:
            “No one can take [my sheep] out of my hand”

The way Jesus takes and holds our hands
            is connected with the three reasons we hold each other’s hands

1. Love: “The Father and I are one”
            Jesus’ love for God his Father is so strong
                        that it’s almost like they’re the same
            That’s what he wants for us, too
            Jesus loves us so much
                        that he wants us to be one with him

2. Safety: “I know them, and they follow me”
            Jesus loves us so much
                        that he wants to protect us, to always keep us safe
            He knows us—
                        what we need, what we’re scared of, what could hurt us
            We need to follow him—to listen to his voice

3. Prayer: “My sheep hear my voice”
            How do we hear Jesus’ voice?  When we pray
            A lot of the time, our prayer is talking to Jesus
            But we also need to listen,
                        so he can tell us he loves us and show us the right way
            (Have you ever noticed, even when we pray alone,
                        how we hold our hands together?)

2nd reading: St. John has a vision of heaven
            Filled with lots and lots of people
            From different countries and cultures
            Different colors and speaking different languages
            So many people they can’t be counted!

How did all those people get to heaven?
            By holding each other’s hand on earth
We have to stick together
            Not just during good and happy times
            Especially during hard and sad times
We need to love each other
We need to protect each other
We need to pray together and for each other
Just the way Jesus loves us, protects us,
            and speaks to us when we pray
What do we call the people who do that?  The Church

We want everybody to know that Jesus loves them,
            cares for them, and is ready to speak to them, right?
So we need to reach out to take other people by the hand
We need to lead them to Jesus so they can be sheep in his flock, too

To the adults…

4th Sunday of Easter: “Good Shepherd Sunday”
World Day of Prayer for Vocations
Usually think: a day for recruiting new priests and nuns!
Want you to think about it a little differently
When we hear vocation,
            we think “a calling”—a call reserved for a select few
We’re right about the calling part
But we’re wrong with the other half: everybody has one!
Vocation is about taking Jesus by the hand
            and letting him lead the way
And at the bottom of it,
            whether you’re married or single, a priest or a deacon,
                        a religious brother or sister, a monk or a nun,
                                    the call is pretty much the same:
When we’ve taken Jesus by the hand,
            we reach out to take somebody else by the hand
It’s a lesson we learn early in childhood…
            …but somehow think we’ve outgrown it as adults

This Sunday: two concrete ways
            to take the Good Shepherd by the hand
                        and help others do likewise

(1) 2nd collection today for “Inspire,” the Vocations Summit
Sunday, September 25, in Lake Placid
Support it generously now
Make plans to participate later

(2) Reach out to the “lost sheep”
[Kids pass our prayer cards now]
Pray it for someone who’s wandered away
Even more: reach out to take somebody by the hand
Packets by church doors with brochures and prayer cards
Take one and give it to a family member or friend
Hang it on a neighbor’s doorknob
Show them your love, lead them to safety, pray for their souls

Holy Year: Jubilee of Mercy
Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica: image of Jesus the Good Shepherd
Reaching out his hand “to save what was being lost”
Grab Jesus by the hand
Help somebody else to do the same

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