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jesus_good_shepherdThe relationship we have with Jesus is wonderfully expressed when we call him the “Good Shepherd.” Jesus guards, guides, protects, and watches over us, just as a human shepherd cares for his flock.
 
The image of Christ bearing a lamb on his shoulders is one of the earliest expressions of his love for us. The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the flock to save the lost one. When he finds the lamb wandering in the mountains, he does not exhaust it by driving it ahead of himself. Instead, he lifts it to his shoulders and, mercifully, restores it to safety.
 
Then he instructs us to be like our heavenly Father—holy, perfect, and merciful.
 
In proclaiming the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called it an opportunity “to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we were lost.” It is a year, he noted, “in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

We thank you, Jesus,
that in your boundless mercy you embrace our lost souls
and carry us to redemption.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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The Good Shepherd“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 10:27-30).
 
A missionary priest, reflecting on his ministry among the Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya, admitted he sometimes had problems explaining to them the references in scripture. However, they instinctively understood one magnificent image —the Good Shepherd. In their culture, the work and image of a shepherd is part of their everyday life.
 
As a nomadic people who live with an oral tradition, the Maasai do not have a complex numbering system. Maasai shepherds give each animal a name, often a nickname that describes its character and attributes. The shepherd identifies the sheep this way because he knows each one individually. This is exactly the image which Jesus uses in this Sunday’s Gospel reading: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
 
In our culture, being called a sheep generally means a person is too easily led or thoughtlessly goes along with the crowd. But in this Gospel passage, Jesus is not calling us to be mindless followers. Rather, Jesus, who knows us better than we know ourselves, calls each of us by name. He says that the sheep that belong to him will never be lost. They cannot even be taken from him. What person, valued by the Good Shepherd as a unique man or woman, would ever want to leave?
 
– The Good Shepherd will never let his sheep be lost or be taken from him. How does this image comfort you? How does this image challenge you?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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accessThe early Celts used to say that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, and that in the “thin places” the distance is even smaller.
 
Today, we sometimes stand mute, gazing upon the Milky Way glowing in the night sky or waves dashing themselves upon rocky coasts or mountain summits scraping the sky.
 
But thin places are not confined to the physical. There are thin places of the mind and of the soul, where the earthly encounters the transcendent.
 
God’s creation is intense with his divinity. Divinity embraces us and reveals itself if we but recognize it: a friend’s smile, an infant’s finger, a stranger’s kind remark.
 
An act of mercy, too, can bring a bit of paradise to earth, when we respond with charity to the beggar’s outstretched hand, the eyes of a starving child, the immigrant seeking refuge.
 
We hear in the gospel story of the morning the apostles came in from fishing to find Jesus—whom they had seen crucified—waiting for them with a hot breakfast. None of them asked, “Who are you?” They stood in mute silence, because they realized it was the risen Lord, extending, in the form of a meal, his inexhaustible mercy.
 
Our prayer today:
 

In your great mercy, Heavenly Father,
you have given us a creation alive with your divine presence.
Help us always to cherish and advance it.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you caught anything to eat?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ So he said to them, ‘Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.’ So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord’” (John 21:4-12).
 
Global positioning devices are great tools to help us get where we need to go—and people put a lot of trust in them. You follow along until the GPS tells you to “turn left in 500 feet,” but it isn’t the right road! You decide to ignore the GPS and look for a familiar road, and the device recalculates the route.
 
Over the past few weeks, the Gospel readings have followed the disciples in a similar situation. Until Passover, they’d been traveling with Jesus and spreading his message, and they thought they’d keep doing just that. But things changed—drastically! So, they decided to just go back to fishing—something they knew well—to help them get their bearings.
 
We often do the same thing when things seem crazy; we go back to what feels comfortable to give us time to think or to get used to our new reality. It’s like a moment when the GPS says, “Take next exit on right” and you see that familiar landmark ahead: it’s just enough to relax you.
 
As often happens to us, the disciples see something they don’t expect—for them it was someone on shore with a small fire. He tells them to try fishing on the other side of the boat, and, for some reason, they listen. When they recognize him as Jesus, everything begins to make sense, but it’s a new reality. As you get to the exit, you see a new shopping center. Everything else is there, too, and now it all makes sense.
 
It is now up to the apostles, and us, to spread the good news which Jesus has entrusted to us. As the apostles share breakfast with him, their new path becomes clearer, and they know they don’t have to travel it alone. Christ, the true guide, will walk the path with them, just as he will walk with us.
 
How has God guided me in my life even when I thought another way was better?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.
Painting by Kristin Serafini.

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missionIn his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul recounts the number of persons who saw the risen Christ. In addition to the Apostles and the women, “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time”
(1 Cor 15: 3-8).
 
Even with this witness, Jesus gave great encouragement directly to us, who live 2,000 years later, when he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
 
But is it true that we in the 21st century cannot see Jesus? Don’t we see him in the poor and the imprisoned, in the hungry and thirsty?
 
Pope Francis, in a 2014 general audience, reminded us that it “is through our brothers and sisters that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means.”
 
Perhaps we get the best glimpse of Jesus in his acts of mercy, the Pope adds. For example, when Thomas refuses to believe the other apostles, Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief. He waits.
 
As St. Thomas Aquinas said, to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Lord,
help us always see your face
in our brothers and sisters
and reflect your mercy toward them
through our faith.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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