Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 21 April 2013 – Of Shepherds and Sheep


4 Easter – April 21, 2013 – Of Shepherds and Sheep

Acts 13:14. 43-52; Psalm 100:1-3,5; Rev 7:9,14b-17; John 10:27-30

Last week was a disaster for so many people. The Boston Marathon bombings. The papal reaffirmation of the investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The massive explosion in Texas. The defeat of every gun control proposal by the Senate. The first event was a crime. The second one was a huge disappointment concerning the contributions and intuitions of women in the church. The third was an awful accident. The fourth was an unbelievable example of how elected officials, according to some reports, ignored the common sense of 90% of American citizens. But did the Senators actually forsake their flocks? 

Other surveys indicate the Senators who voted against the proposals actually represented states where the citizens, not to mention the lobbyists, were against more gun control. Nevertheless, the outcome of the vote raises a question about how elected officials represent the common good of a country. It is about scrutinizing those who have power to make decisions for large numbers of people. It is an issue of leadership and authority. It is a topic that we Catholics are mindful of as we try to be faithful to the gospel and the doctrines of our church.

Today’s scriptures focus on the voice of the good shepherd. In the first passage we heard that if one group was not open to the teachings of Jesus the disciples would turn their attention to others. The lesson in today’s gospel is a familiar one: if we hear the voice of Christ we had better listen. Reginald Fuller writes: “to hear and to respond to Jesus’ word on earth is the decisive factor that will determine acceptance by God.” [1]

This is good news for the shepherds in our church. The bishops are quite serious about their responsibility to protect the authentic teachings of Christ and the apostolic church and then lead us accordingly. 

There are other indicators, however, that a shepherd in ancient times not only led sheep but also listened to the sheep who were not all alike — those who were sick, threatened by wild animals or lost in the night and needed help from the shepherd. The relationship between the shepherd and the sheep mattered. In a similar way, clergy and laity in our church are part of the same flock and need each other. Only Christ is the chief shepherd leading all of us with a mother’s strength and a father’s love. [2] 

We know the Catholic church is not a democracy like our nation state. We do not elect those who make decisions for us nor do we vote on anything that concerns us. In fact, the Second Vatican Council affirmed that the pope and the bishops are to exercise authority over the church. However, this instruction does not exempt our bishops from acting in the spirit of service or from listening to the voices of the faithful [3] especially when those voices are seeking help, dialog and understanding.

The Second Vatican Council emphasized the dignity of all baptized persons. It said all of us have been called to holiness. [4] The principle of collegiality was not reserved to the hierarchy alone. It would be a beautiful act of service if all bishops, including the bishop of Rome, found a way to learn what the people of God are thinking before making decisions that would affect them. To use an old Latin expression, what is the sensus fidelium? What is the sense of the faithful on any number of issues?  What is it that the same Spirit who speaks to the bishops is speaking to the rest of the church? 

The Senators may have ignored the common sense of the American public when voting against more gun control. But Catholic bishops are reminded by Conciliar teachings to recognize the charisms of all members of the church, to treat the people of God as co-workers in the vineyard, partners in maintaining the apostolic tradition. [5]  Yes, the sheep must listen but the shepherds are not to lord their authority over the sheep. (2 Peter 5)

The two Chechen brothers who plagued the City of Boston and its suburbs were caught quickly because the authorities asked citizens for help. They employed something called “crowd-sourcing.” It is the practice of getting information, ideas and solutions by tapping into large groups of people using social media.

All of us are shepherds entrusted with the responsibility for taking care of one another. Why? No one us knows more than all of us.


1 Reginald H. Fuller. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegville: The Liturgical Press) 1984, Revised Edition), 429-431

2 Chepponis, James. “With a Shepherd’s Care” in Gather (Chicago: GIA Publications)1994, 654

3 See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 894-896

4 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 39

5 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 30


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

7 thoughts on “Homily – 21 April 2013 – Of Shepherds and Sheep

  1. i really like – no ONE knows more than ALL of us (knows). somethig to keep in the front of my mind! thanks.


  2. The bishops are serious about protecting the teachings. After reading some statements in the press from some of the bishops, they sound like raving loonies, not thoughtful, educated servants of the Lord.


  3. Your words about authority, listening and “sensum fidelium” help to focus the issue of the LCWR (and our elected leaders). It seems to me that there remains the question of WHY those in positions of authority, while listening, choose to remain in a position that does not respond to the people. What in us keeps us stuck in “our position” especially as that relates to positions of the institutional Church? It seems to be a time warp (that truth remains in a past time position) and does not allow for present development of truth that evolves from listening and TAKING IN the convictions of the other and allowing them to impact our position. Perhaps we need to ask the Spirit into the process, and pray for more openness.


  4. Gail, your response reflects so well what is the current position of the Bishops/Bishop of Rome regarding their frozen in time view of women.and their fear of experiencing a new truth.
    Richard – I loved the phrase: ‘Only Christ is the chief shepherd leading all of us with a mother’s strength and a father’s love.’ Your choice of strength for mother and love for father turns upside down the traditional roles.

    Thank you for another thoughtful, positive reflection… I mean homily… 🙂


  5. thank you for once again for giving us something to reflect on. You tied the 4 events so beautifully ELLEN HALLIGAN


  6. Fr. Vosko, What a beautifully thought out and topical homily. Nothing could be more germane than your phrase “crowd sourcing” – and the use of social media. As much as we all are hesitant about the use of streaming video, many times echoing the ACLU’s position on “what has happened to our privacy, the big brother phenomenon and alike…..What would be the current status of the investigation if we didn’t have the technology of video streaming and the transport of vital crowd information via our social media?

    I was encouraged to hear the FBI and state and local police agencies actually acknowledge the crowd/viewing public in the use of the social media. Has this perhaps introduced us to something we (the Catholic church) have been looking for – for some time now?. The ability to actually be more vigilant in looking out for each other?

    This may be an awkward segue to the issue regarding our senators and gun control. Gail puts the “sense of the faithful” and the position with the LCWR so eloquently that it does make us all ponder just where does the Shepard-ship and Stewardship of our elect sit? Was Jesus’ mission one that only catered to the “Now” with only a view of short-term implications as it’s goal?
    Where is the “sensum fidelium” ? And why could it be found in a crowd yet not in our own elected congress?
    As for your quote: “No one of us knows more than all of us.” Boy, could I have really used that quote when I was raising my teenagers ?? 🙂

    Thanks again Fr. Vosko…


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