THE NECESSITY OF GOOD WORKS
Brothers and Sisters,
Almost as famously as Divine Mercy on the Second Sunday of Easter, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is unofficially known as Good Shepherd Sunday. This is one of the many special days of the Easter season.
I remember being a child and not appreciating this day for several reasons: I wasn’t entirely sure what a shepherd is or does, I was told by friends and teachers that I should think for myself and not “be a sheep,” and most interestingly I thought of Christ as the high king and not so much as a worker – I pictured Christ as on a throne in Heaven’s clouds Who magically made a difference here on Earth when prayed to do so.
It wasn’t until my days in seminary that I learned this principle that I have often mentioned in the homily at Mass: Christ does not merely tell us what to do, He always leads by His own example. This is the heart of the title “Good Shepherd.” In fact, the Good Shepherd said as much Himself: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15).
This is the Savior Himself instructing us to do good works. The actions of Christ on Earth were not limited to proving that He is divine by showing us a few scattered miracles; the tasks of Christ were bigger even than giving us doctrine through His speeches and conversations. While both of these are, of course, very important, they are not the whole story. If we miss the requirement to do good works, then we have also misunderstood His speeches and miracles.
The Christians of the first four centuries took this quite seriously with amazing results. Here’s one telling example: when it was still illegal to be a Christian in the city of Rome, the Christians had already established an intricate food-sharing and financial assistance system. It was so effective that they were able to assist the poor of Rome who were not even Christian. They were willing to take risks in exposing their faith to others not merely in hope that these others would become Christians themselves, but because they saw the great importance of doing good works.
This is the great freedom of the Holy Faith. Regardless of what happens to parish buildings or cluster borders, Holy Mother Church will endure even when Christianity is openly and publicly mocked. The Church, even when the membership declines, is no less strong.
Do good works. Be kind and generous. Do not sadden the Sacred Heart by withholding kindness.
God be near,