May 3, 2020
The Communion antiphon of the Mass for this Fourth Sunday of Easter states: “The Good Shepherd has risen, Who laid down His life for His sheep, and willingly died for His flock, alleluia!” Today’s Gospel (John 10:1-10) and Mass prayers refer to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who gave up His life for His sheep. Through His Passion, death and Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, Jesus gave life to His sheep and brought them back to the fold. “By His wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
At every Mass, the perfect prayer of the Church, we faithfully pray that the continuing work of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, will bring us eternal joy – that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will give us the strength we need to follow Jesus as He leads us to join the saints in Heaven. Holy Mass, an expression of our faith, is at the heart of the Church’s main duty of evangelization. It is from and in this prayer and faith that any and all of our works have any enduring meaning. Please be assured that I’ve been offering Mass every day for the intentions of parishioners and for our parish family.
Prayer, faith, hope and love are God-given virtues that sustain us during difficult, good
and all times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many state governors have imposed civil restrictions, or shutdowns, which we the people have allowed for the common good. Let us continue to pray for the health and well-being of all people, that those who are at risk can stay quarantined and safe as long as needed. Let us keep praying for the safe and responsible reopening of people’s homes, businesses and churches, for the common good, for all the people whom the shutdowns have so severely hurt, including farmers, restaurant and all small-business and large-business owners and their employees, health-care workers, people who are suffering from non-COVID-19 illnesses, and the tens of millions of unemployed hard-working people who had wonderful livelihoods a month ago and are now facing life-threatening poverty and
mental and emotional stress because their work has been suspended or eliminated. Let us pray for our civil leaders to address the shutdowns’ serious effects on people’s physical, financial, social, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. With faith in God and by His grace, may we persevere through this time, as the virus data becomes clearer and more reliable, and that our civil and religious leaders and all people have learned lessons from the last month – to quarantine and protect the vulnerable and to allow all non-vulnerable people to work and support their families, for all people to be better prepared for the next virus, relying on science and facts and not narratives of misinformation. Let us pray for allowance of the public celebration of Mass and other forms of public prayer in our churches.
As our Lord Himself appointed Saint Peter as the shepherd of His whole flock, handing
him the Keys to the Kingdom and giving him authority to lead and guide the entire Church (Matthew 16; John 21), let us pray for all shepherds that Jesus authorizes to serve His Church. The Fathers of Vatican Council II stated that when Jesus Christ put Peter at the head of the other Apostles, He established a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity of both faith and communion (Lumen gentium, 18). Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia – where Peter is, there is the Church. We pray for Pope Francis, the 265th Successor to Saint Peter, to always proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, to proclaim the Truth with charity and clarity. We pray for a retired pope as well, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the 264th Successor to Saint Peter, and for Bishop Donald J. Hying, whom Pope Benedict appointed as bishop in 2011 and whom Pope Francis assigned as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Madison just one year ago this past Saturday, April 25, the Feast of Saint Mark. In Saint Peter and his
successors, and in holy, obedient and courageous bishops and priests, we see Our Lord’s mission continue: inviting and encouraging all people to meet Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, in a life-affirming and life-changing way, as we all serve and follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. In communion with our Lord and His vicar, the pope, we know with certainty the Way that leads to salvation: Jesus Christ, the Only Savior of the world. This month of May also reminds us to always pray for the intercession of Jesus’ mother Mary, as He entrusted her to His Church (John 19:26-27) – Mary, Mother of mercy, pray for us. Amen! Alleluia!
With peace and prayers in Christ,
Fr. William Vernon