Good Shepherd Sunday Sermon, 2020
Preached on 25th April 2020 at St. Mary’s Priory, Warrington
[Full text below of homily by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP:]
Watch Father deliver the sermon by clicking on this link:- https://vimeo.com/412857044
INTRO: “I – am the good shepherd.”
Our Lord emphasises the I.
Meaning: I only am truly and fully the good shepherd. Other shepherds are good inasmuch as they act in me and through me.
Christ is the Good Shepherd.
Christ is the only truly good shepherd. No pope, bishop or priest is a good shepherd, unless Christ speaks and acts through him. Christ always meant to be the one acting through his clergy. Some would betray Him. Some would remain faithful.
The tragic betrayal of Our Lord by Judas is comforting, paradoxically. Judas had been chosen and trained during three years by the best seminary rector ever, that is, the Lord Jesus Himself. And yet, Judas the shepherd fell. Judas wept, and Judas died unrepentant. Simon Peter had been chosen and trained during three years by the best seminary rector ever, that is, the Lord Jesus Himself. And yet, Peter the shepherd fell, wept, trusted and rose again.
Christ is the only truly good shepherd.
Dear friends, it is Christ whom you, the sheep, must seek in your pastors. You must always remember that no pope, no bishop, no priest, perfectly embodies Christ. No pope, no bishop, no priest faithfully radiates Christ. There is always at least some discrepancy, because Christ is the only truly good shepherd, and every pastor can only try to imitate Christ. By God’s grace, many popes, bishops, priests and deacons were faithful. Read their fascinating lives: thousands of martyrs, doctors, founders, holy abbots, heroic missionaries, catechists, hospital directors, scientists, even statesmen and artists. All trying to imitate Christ the only truly good Shepherd.
Some betrayed gravely, like Fr Martin Luther, the apostate monk. What is more frequent, and no less harmful, is when priests gradually surrender to the world, while remaining in full communion with the Church and in active ministry. In a way, every baptised is prone to compromising with the world, to becoming lukewarm for the sake of a quiet life, of popularity, of preferment. But this leaning towards mediocrity is more harmful in shepherds, because these are meant to be leaders of the flock and examples to souls.
Our unprecedented times of universal church closures deprive most Catholic souls from the sacraments. This is extremely grave. This is the worst calamity in the history of the world. Shepherds must absolutely not play it down. Shepherds must not excuse it or explain it out. Shepherds must weep for such an evil, and shepherds must actively represent to the Government the spiritual needs of their flocks. How can souls be forbidden even private prayers in churches when supermarkets are open? The current crisis reveals how deeply our society has lost sight of its true Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. If only food shops were open and not churches, it would be bad enough.
But my friends there is more and there is worse. How is it possible that Marie Stopes, a main abortion provider in the UK, can boast of the following on its website:
“COVID-19 closures do not impact our abortion care clinics as we are providing an essential medical service. You ARE allowed to leave your home to visit our clinics….”
This website is indicated by the NHS on their abortion page (accessed one hour ago) nhs.uk/conditions/abortion, which states: “Coronavirus update: Abortion services are still open. […] Impartial information and support are available from organisations such as the FPA, Brook (for under-25s), BPAS, Marie Stopes UK and NUPAS – but beware of so-called “crisis pregnancy centres” that claim to provide impartial advice but often do not.”
My friends, who can ignore that what the NHS calls impartial advice is a heavy and systematic pressure to kill innocent children at a cost? Who can ignore that what the NHS calls partial is a compassionate and respectful help to save unborn children gratuitously?
In the UK, there are at most 20,000 deaths attributed to Coronavirus (slightly more than ordinary seasonal flu). Of those deaths, in truth, most were caused by underlying conditions, not by Coronavirus. However, even if this high estimate were proven, it would still be 10 times less than the number of deaths by abortion in the UK each year: 209,000. Unlike the attributed Coronavirus deaths, deaths by abortion are not caused by underlying conditions. Deaths by abortion don’t occur against the efforts of the doctors and nurses, but through their direct, wilful and personal intervention. Deaths by abortion are not accidents occurring through the negligence of NHS staff. On the contrary, they are considered central to the mission and ethos of the NHS and of the State.
Much as I agree with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his praise of many NHS doctors and nurses, I cannot agree with his unconditional statement on Easter Sunday last: “We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.” With due respect to the Prime Minister, as a Catholic priest, as a shepherd of souls, I must state that the beating heart of this country is in our tabernacles. That beating heart is called ‘Jesus, Saviour of Men – Jesus, Hominum Salvator’. Or by His initials: I.H.S. (There is an emphasis on I.) The IHS is the One who inspires every efforts, every act of generosity and self denial. He is charity, love incarnate. Love sacrificed and love risen.
That on Easter morning, when the world celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, a Prime minister once baptised Catholic should not have a single word of thanks to the Master of life for saving his, and for the many Christians who offered prayers and sacrifices for his recovery, shows how dramatically we have lost contact with supernatural realities. Our souls stop breathing grace. Our airways are clogged by worldliness. Our eyes are blind to eternal light. Our hearts ignore the pace of supernatural charity. And yet, a month ago we were reminded that England is Our Lady’s Dowry. What are we doing about this worst of viruses called apostasy?
What does it have to do with good shepherds, you may think? Dear friends, good shepherds cannot align their views, hopes, measures and speeches with those of this world. While praising every good deed in civil society, good shepherds are appointed by God precisely to guide and spur and lead souls to supernatural realities. There were good people in Egypt, surely. And yet, Moses was to take leave and lead the people to the Promised Land, even at a cost. What does this mean practically? Our Promised Land is our churches. Under the current antivirus restrictions, good shepherds after the example of Our Lord will pray, sacrifice, write and speak in every way in their power to secure for our churches at least the same level of access as is granted to supermarkets and abortuaries.
We, your shepherds will answer before God and your souls for what we will have done – or failed to do – to remedy this state of unprecedented sacramental emergency. The Lord will say to each shepherd: “My son, I appointed you shepherd of my flock. I embedded in your soul my own divine powers to offer the redeeming sacrifice of the Mass and to beget souls to life of grace again through Holy Baptism and Confession.”
The Lord will ask His shepherd – the Lord will ask me:
“My son, what exactly did you do to feed my flock with my Flesh?
My son, what exactly did you do to cleanse my flock with my Blood in Confession?
My son, what exactly did you do to warm my flock with my Eucharistic presence?
My son, what exactly did you do to enlighten my flock with my word of truth?
My son, what exactly did you do to fortify with my Last Anointing my flock in agony?”
Dear friends, pray for us your shepherds. Pray for me. What will I, still a junior pastor, answer to the Lord, when He asks me these questions? Much as I give thanks for doctors and nurses helping patients in hospitals, will it suffice if I answer: “But Lord, Lord, I thanked the NHS!”
“For saving lives, well my son. But did you praise the IHS?” – the Lord might respond.
“O Lord, what is the IHS? I never heard of IHS. It is a new crisis healthcare scheme? Surely that IHS cannot be ‘the beating heart of this country,’ since the NHS is, I am told. O Lord, I led my flock in thanksgiving, publicly, for the NHS. I clapped every Thursday for the NHS. Also, I said Mass before a camera. Was there more I should have done, Lord?”
Dear friends, if you are watching Live Mass from outside the UK, know that NHS means ‘National Health Service’. If you are watching Live Mass from outside Christendom, know that IHS means ‘Jesus Saviour of Men’ – ‘I.H.S.’. The IHS acronym is displayed on countless churches, altars, chasubles, chalices, paintings and sculptures. Jesus Saviour of Men. The IHS is a summary of our faith, of our identity, of our hope. Jesus Saviour of Men. Felicitously, the IHS acronym is displayed widely at the very centre of the coat of arms chosen by His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ. Praise to the IHS: Jesus Saviour of Men. Good shepherds will stamp their every thoughts, words and actions with the IHS. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will invite their flock daily to proclaim the IHS. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will see it as their chief duty to facilitate sacramental encounter between their flock and the IHS. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will praise the medical efforts of civil society in dependence of the IHS. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will remind their flock that our bodies are made for our souls; that time is given us for eternity; and that one virus only, one virus only, can kill our souls and its name is S-I-N: SIN. And its only remedy is I-H-S: Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will gladden their flock, teaching that the Lord redeemed us through suffering in His Passion and Death on the Cross, so that our sufferings can redeem us and others if offered up with and in the IHS. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will proclaim the IHS as Lord of history, whose Providence encompasses everything, even pandemics. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Good shepherds will invite their flock to embrace trials in reparation for their sins and for the sins of scandalous clergy and of apostate Christians, and for the conversion of the heathens, as IHS said in today’s Holy Gospel: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” Jesus Saviour of Men.
CCL: I conclude with two calls.
First call: pray for all of us your clergy. Pray for Pope Francis, for cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons. Some of us are fallen. Some are gravely fallen. Some are mediocre. Some are in doubt. Some are afraid. Some are tired. Some are sick. And also, some are doing well, by God’s holy grace. You are the flock of the Lord, entrusted to our fallible care. Please pray for us all to convert, to repent, to improve, to be saved. To be pastors according to His Heart. Jesus Saviour of Men.
Second call: pray for our wonderful seminarians. Pray for these thousands of young men, all over the world, preparing to become shepherds of souls. Many of them this year will have spent Holy Week alone, sometimes quarantined. In particular if you are among the 7,000 members of the Confraternity of St Peter, pray for our FSSP UK seminarians: pray for Roger, Gwilym, Emmanuel, Miklos, Henry, Tom and Conan. Some are watching us now on Live Mass. A word to them: My seminarian friends, you should have been here today, serving this Holy Mass. Guidelines prevented it. But we pray for you and with you.
Lastly, friends, pray for many, many more young men to follow those. Pray for many more Rogers, Gwilyms, Emmanuels, Mikloses, Henrys, Toms and Conans to hear the call of the Good Shepherd: FOLLOW ME! Pray for thousands of good young men to answer that call: Here I am Lord! Young men, I say to you, on this unique Good Shepherd Sunday behind locked doors: Don’t be afraid. Answer the call. Christ will not let you down. He will be with you every day. Surrender to Him and to His Immaculate Mother. They will make you pastors according to their Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.