Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 11-12, 2019
From Fr. Anthony Ligato
Good Shepherd Sunday
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
During the days of the Wild West there were skirmishes that were known as Range wars. There were various reasons for these range wars, from disagreements over grazing rights over federal and territorial lands to the use of barb wire to fence and partition land. But the one of the most prevalent reasons was over sheepherders moving into the western territories and bringing their large flock of sheep. You see sheep can clear a range of grass lands faster than a herd of cattle. The shepherd and their sheep were considered a threat to the great Cattle Barons of the Wild West.
Because of the threat the shepherds and their sheep posed to the leases the Cattle Barons held over the grazing rights of the great western ranges, there was no length to extreme for the Cattle ranchers to protect their lands and their perceived rights. These extreme measures led to the range wars. It is hard for us to believe a shepherd and a flock of sheep could pose such a danger to the lifestyle and fortunes of such powerful people.
It has been the case for more than 2000 years that a shepherd has been a threat to the lifestyles and fortunes of many powerful people. They have gone to great lengths to try and silence this shepherd and have tried in many various ways to scatter the flock. “Jesus Said, My, sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:2730) This shepherd of the flock is a good shepherd because he tends the flock and protects the flock and no amount of rage and violence against the flock will ever scatter the sheep.
Challenges to the flock’s existence began early in the church. Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch to gather the flock together and to call others to join the flock, especially invited the Gentiles. Because of their gathering the flock together from far and wide they were expelled from Antioch, “The women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from the territory. So, they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The Disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:5052) No amount of persecution could stop the forward movement and growth of the Christian faith, just as sheep can quickly multiply so too the Christian people were multiplying at a great rate. “I John had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people and tongue.” (Revelations 7:9) The shepherd of the Flock is also the Lamb of sacrifice. The Good Shepherd who laid his life down for his sheep will always protect his flock. “The one who sits on the thrown will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of lifegiving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelations 7:1517).
Did I tell you how those Range wars turned out? Well, the shepherds and their flocks remained on the land and to this day some of the best grazing lands for sheep are in the Western United States. You could say that the Shepherd has protected the flock well.
Yours in Christ,