Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord, we are all reminded of the calling of the Lord to all of us to trust in the Lord and allow Him to lead us down the right path as our Shepherd, and each and every one of us must then also follow the example of our Shepherd and become sources of inspiration and strength for one another so that each and every one of us may be inspired to always remain committed to God.
In our first reading today from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people, who at that time was in exile in Babylon, that He would gather them like a shepherd gathering his sheep, from those scattered among the nations, and He would look for them and reunite themselves to Him, as He still loved them and cared for them as His beloved people and His children. The Lord is still ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with them even though those same people had betrayed and abandoned Him for the false pagan idols and gods.
The Lord would prove this right by gathering all of His scattered people and moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great to allow the descendants of the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild their cities and dwellings, as well as the Holy Temple and House of God in Jerusalem. God gathered them all and reunited them, to live once again in obedience to His Law and commandments, and distancing themselves from the rebellious ways of their ancestors.
Then, in our Gospel today, we listened to the story of the Lord Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, when He appeared to His disciples in Galilee, and as they gathered, the Lord had a conversation with St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all of His disciples, who had earlier on denied Him three times at the moment of His Passion and suffering. The Lord asked St. Peter three times whether he loved Him, and St. Peter responded each time with a sincere proclamation of his love and dedication to the Lord.
Through these series of questions, in fact, which mirrored the three times denial of St. Peter earlier on, it showed that the Lord had forgiven St. Peter, and just as He had called and chosen him earlier on, He entrusted His Church to St. Peter, as He earlier on also said that, as He gave him the name of Peter, or Cephas, ‘the Rock’, that He established His Church on the Rock of St. Peter, as His Vicar and the leader of all the faithful, as the shepherd of shepherds and the one to represent the one True Shepherd of all, the Lord Himself.
This was further affirmed as the Lord told St. Peter to ‘feed My Sheep’, symbolically presenting the Church as the flock of the Lord’s faithful, and entrusting the Church and all the faithful to the Apostles and the other disciples to be the ones to lead and guide them to the right path, as they gather together in prayer, committing themselves to a new existence together in God, and guided by the examples and the inspiration of the Holy Apostles, the saints and martyrs who had lived with devotion to God.
Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of one of St. Peter’s holy successors, as Pope and leader of the Universal Church, namely Pope St. John XXIII, also known as the Good Pope, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, elected in the Year of Our Lord 1958 as the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ, to lead the entire faithful people of God, as the shepherd of all the faithful representing Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Pope St. John XXIII and his many contributions still inspire many even to this very day.
Pope St. John XXIII was born in a poor family in the northern part of Italy in Bergamo, in a family of many children, who raised their children in the Christian faith devoutly. One of his uncles sponsored his education, and eventually he joined the priesthood and was ordained a priest in Rome. He was then involved in working in the Diocese of Bergamo and witnessed firsthand how his bishop showed his care and concern for his flock during an incident in which workers on strike to fight for their rights were arrested, and he and his bishop helped in mediating between the workers and the authorities.
This would continue to inspire Pope St. John XXIII in his later role as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria and Turkey, as he worked hard to reach out to his flock and also to all other Christians and fellow men, in showing God’s love to all, in leading them towards God as the successor of St. Peter, as the shepherd of shepherds and as guide for them towards the Lord. Then, as Apostolic Nuncio to France and finally as the Patriarch of Venice, the future Pope St. John XXIII would continue to show his dedication in his efforts to reach out to the faithful.
As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII devoted himself to reform the Church, and called for the Ecumenical Council at the Vatican, also known better as the Second Vatican Council, which began during the later part of his pontificate. Pope St. John XXIII also contributed greatly to the world, in healing the divisions between Christians, through his links to the separated brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church from his earlier tenure as Delegate in Bulgaria and Turkey, among others. And he was also well-known for his peacemaking effort, between the superpowers at the height of the Cold War, in order to avoid mutual destruction between them and the world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the good examples and the life work from Pope St. John XXIII, can we be inspired to follow him and his good examples, and do whatever we can in our lives, so that we may truly be faithful disciples and followers of our Lord? Let us all be shepherds and guides to one another as well, to reach out to those who are in need, and to help one another to find our way to the Lord together. May the Lord, our loving Shepherd and Guide, continue to strengthen us and help us in our journey through life, now and always. Amen.