Following The Good Shepherd with Fatima’s three shepherd children

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"Christ, The Good Shepherd" by Maria Laughlin

Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” He died on the cross so that we might be his. So are we really his? Do we really belong to God? No one can take us from him, but it is possible for us to refuse to follow. One of the greatest gifts we have received from God is our free will, but at the same time it is the gift that makes it possible for us to reject him.

The purpose of our Christian faith is to guide us in the choices we make; to form our conscience, which is also a gift from God, so that we will be able to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him to safety. He invites us to follow him; he doesn’t force us. When we continue to do things we know we shouldn’t do, it makes it more difficult to recognize his voice and follow him.

The Good Shepherd wants all of us to be happy, even if things are very difficult. He promised he would help us if we would come to him. Why is it so difficult for us to come to him? Do we think he will expect too much from us? Do we think we are not good enough to expect anything from him? He loves us unconditionally and only wants what is good for us.

The three shepherd children of Fatima

In Fatima, Portugal, in 1916, a year before the apparitions of the Mother of God, an angel appeared to three young shepherds as they tended their flock; Lucia was age ten, Francisco eight and Jacinta seven. He was preparing them for the apparitions they would receive from the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the prayer he asked them to pray: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” This simple prayer reveals to us what is necessary in our relationship with God.

My God, I believe…

What does it mean to believe in God? We all received the gift of faith in baptism, but to believe is a choice. What we believe right now is a consequence of choices we have made. God has revealed His plan for each of us through the Sacred Scriptures and through the teaching authority of the Church so that we might believe in Him and be saved. To believe in God is to believe in what He has revealed and to be faithful to what we believe.

I adore…

What does it mean to adore God? First of all we must have the wisdom to recognize who God is and who we are. In Psalm 111 it says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom…” This is not a cowering fear, but an awesome fear. Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit that helps us to be docile to receive inspirations from God. God is eternal and Almighty and we are His lowly creatures, and yet He loves us so much that He created us in His very own image so that we might be called children of God. He loves us so much that His own Son died on the cross to save us from our sins. It is the desire of God that we worship and adore Him. That’s why we come to Mass every Sunday, but to adore God is more than just spending one hour a week at Church. To adore God is to honor Him for who He is and to desire to please Him; to spend time with Him in prayer every day. We should begin our day with Him, asking Him to help us in all we do. We should pray before every meal, every time we get in a car, every time we begin a new task no matter what it is. We should pray before going to bed. We should pray for our needs and the needs of others and praise God for all the good things He has done for us.

I hope…

What does it mean to hope in God? It means to have a trust in God that perseveres to the end, no matter how difficult the circumstances. It is a trust that places the Kingdom of God before everything else. It is this hope in God that enabled martyrs to die for their faith and allows us to experience peace and joy, even when undergoing trials.

and I love you.

What does it mean to love God? “We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, with all our strength and with all our heart.” This is not a suggestion as some people might think. God commands us to love Him because He created us for Himself and we will never discover true and lasting happiness unless it is in relationship with Him. He is the source of all love, and the more we love Him the more will be able to love others. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for the people you love is to keep the first commandment.

My God I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you and I ask pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.

In this prayer that the angel taught the three young shepherds, God is telling them, and us, that we must live the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and that we must adore God who loves us so that we can discover our purpose in life, and to be happy now and for all eternity. These three children took this prayer to heart and faithfully followed the Good Shepherd who led them safely to heaven.

If we will pray this little prayer every day with the same fervor as the three little shepherds we will certainly recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and allow him to guide us through all the difficulties of this life and to bring us safely home to the Father when we have reached the end of our pilgrimage.

This was Deacon Tom’s homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter (B), preached at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.

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