Easter 04, Year B

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One who loves knows God (1 Jn. 4:7)

In the homily that Father John Maher, C.M., preached on Family Day at the Miraculous Medal Shrine, he gratefully and delightfully included among the "cloud of witnesses" an unlikely person. [1] Father recounted: "When giving a homily on Trinity Sunday and choosing erudition (or so I thought) over expediency, a little girl in front row of a small country Church turned to her mother and said loudly, 'Momma, that man in that green poncho--is he gonna say every single word he knows?'"

An improbable witness, indeed, this little girl. But we already know, of course, that God silences those of us who think of ourselves as "leaders of the people and elders" through the mouths of babes and infants, and it is suggested that preferable to the pretensions of erudite and eloquent leadership are the simplicity, the lowliness, the calm and silence of the child whom we should imitate if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Ps. 8: 2; 131:1-2; Mt. 18:3).

An attitude of humility and simplicity that is manifested in disinterested and self-sacrificing love will make us become like the good shepherd. As we acquire the nature of the good shepherd, we are revealed and known as God’s true children, knowing the same shepherd who knows us and calls each of us by name. Convinced that there is no other name except Jesus’ by which we can be saved, with grateful hearts we will remain, by his grace, in the fold, agreeing all the while with him in recognizing that he has other sheep not belonging to our fold that, sooner or later, will commune with us so that together we can all become one flock under one shepherd.

I believe they have the humility and the simplicity of the little girl witness those who readily acknowledge the reality that the good shepherd has to lead other sheep as well, and these too will listen to his voice. Witnesses that they have become, in my view, of universality and inclusiveness, these Christians will not find it objectionable that an Eldad or a Medad is prophesying without prior authorization from the leader, or that someone not following them is casting out demons in Jesus’ name (cf. Nu. 11:26-29; Mk. 9:38-39). They will pay attention to the one who teaches that Christian charity is much more than mere philanthropy and warns that, by identifying themselves completely with the nongovernmental organizations and presenting a program that is indistinguishable from the Red Cross or the United Nations, the large Church charity organizations separate themselves from the Church and from their link with the bishops and, thus, "they would be contradicting the 2,000-year history of our Church, and seriously deteriorating the credibility of its preaching."[2] But, then, they will also recognize that, ultimately, what is essential is to help those in need, whether the helper knows or not that he or she is doing it to the Lord. For at the final judgment, in Mt. 25:31-46, both those who will go into eternal life and those who will go away into eternal punishment ask: "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison?" These witnesses likewise know which stone will serve as the corner stone and will not end up rejecting it, for they know God almost instinctively since they know love. They wonder at the Father’s love, for they see him as he really is when they love and when they allow themselves to be loved.

If I may be allowed, then, to say again: this kind of testimony is proper primarily, I believe, of such a child as that young girl in Father Maher’s homily, simple and disarming in her being without guile, the opposite of the deceitful hired hands posing as shepherds.