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Jesus the Good Shepherd

I am the Good Shepherd

Fr. John Riccardo of ACTS XXIX, an apostolate of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is fond of saying, “The world will find happiness to the extent that it finds Jesus.” We are living in a time of great division, anger, and strife. Cities are being burned to the ground. Civil unrest is rampant. As a culture, we have lost the ability to discuss our differences. Strife, despair, and hopelessness are extracting a terrible toll on our lives. For the first time in 100 years, the life expectancy in the United States has decreased three years in a row. Sociologists says that we are dying “deaths of despair.”

What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.[1] Porta Fidei (Door of Faith), §15

These are the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He wrote Porta Fidei to express “the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”[2] Christian faith gives us hope; we need not despair in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, states…

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (emphasis added)

Healing of our nation and the world begins in the family. In 1965, St. Pope Paul VI penned these prophetic words on the importance of the family to the welfare of society…

The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.[3] Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), §47

The family is the bedrock of our society. This is where children learn about love and virtues. When families are healthy and whole, a society is healthy and whole. When family breaks down, civil society breaks down. St. Pope Paul VI issued an Apostolic Exhortation on how we are all called to be evangelizers for the faith. He stressed the importance of the family in carrying out the mission to evangelize…

One cannot fail to stress the evangelizing action of the family in the evangelizing apostolate of the laity… In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized. The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them. And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part.[4] Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), §71

Families can transform our neighborhoods, our country, and the world. St. Pope John Paul II in his classic Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), said that “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” (§86). He further states:

…parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. The right and duty of parents to give education is essential…The ministry of evangelization carried out by Christian parents is original and irreplaceable. It assumes the characteristics typical of family life itself, which should be interwoven with love, simplicity, practicality and daily witness.[5] Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), §36 and §53

In the midst of division and strife in our country and world, the family plays a critical role in restoring society. And it begins with just one family, your family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute” (2221).

The family is a kind of school of deeper humanity. But if it is to achieve the full flowering of its life and mission, it needs the kindly communion of minds and the joint deliberation of spouses, as well as the painstaking cooperation of parents in the education of their children…the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society. Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), §52

You are called to the mission of sharing the Gospel, starting first with your family. St. Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth stresses the importance of this task that we have been given.

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16c

Father M.M. Philipon, O.P., in the booklet entitled “Conchita: A Modern Mystic,” notes: “The Church of today needs saints everywhere, not only in cloisters, not only at the foot of the altar, but in the family, in a workday context, in every form of human activity. Holiness is God’s call to all men.”[6]

We are all in need of a savior. Jesus is the answer to every problem that we face in our families and our society. Souls are at stake. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Proclaim the Gospel boldly and without fear. Be not afraid. God is with you.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI. Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, internet: http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20111011_porta-fidei.html (accessed October 4, 2020).

[2] Ibid., §2.

[3] Pope Paul VI, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, internet: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html (accessed October 4, 2020).

[4] Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, internet: http://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html (accessed October 4, 2020).

[5] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, internet: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html (accessed October 4, 2020).

[6] Christendom Alumni, Conchita by Heather King, internet: https://christendomalumni.com/2020/09/03/conchita-by-heather-king/ (accessed October 4, 2020).