Homily by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi
“I came so that you may have life, and life in abundance”. The last sentence of today’s Gospel sums up what Jesus wants to give us: life and life in abundance.
When Jesus said this, he was speaking about himself as the Good Shepherd. When he mentioned the shepherd, the people’s minds would immediately go to the Psalm we recited today at Mass “The Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus is telling them that he is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd who loves, who cares for his sheep, who wants to know them individually, who lays down his life for them, who leads them on the right path, who seeks out the lost sheep. They know that, with him, they are protected; they are safe.
Thus, when Jesus says: “I came so that you may have life, and life in abundance”, he is giving us a very important message. He is telling us that, through him, our life here on earth can be a truly beautiful life, a full life, a meaningful life, a life with a purpose. He is also telling us that life does not end with death. Beyond death, he guarantees eternal life, the fullness of life, to those of us who follow him, as his disciples.
Jesus tells those few cells where human life already exits: I came so that you may have life, not for that life to be discarded.
We should ask ourselves what this means for our life today: “What we should we do?” – this is the question we heard in the First Reading, asked by the people who had heard the Good News for the first time. Jesus invites us to join him in safeguarding life. We are united with him, so that we can protect life, and all will have life in abundance.
We do this from the first moment of conception, when life is made up of just a few cells, but it is already human life. He is calling us to let this incipient life develop. Jesus tells those few cells where human life already exits: I came so that you may have life, not for that life to be discarded.
Today, Jesus also tells us that, in the present pandemic, which has disrupted our life, we should follow the various health measures that help us to protect our life and that of others. This is what Jesus is asking of us today. He does not want us to place our life, or that of others, at risk.
Note how, in this sentence where Jesus says that he came to give us life and life in abundance, he places this in contrast with those who come to steal, kill and destroy. He is referring here to some religious leaders who deceived people. Jesus tells us that, as we join him in the defence of life, we should be on the alert for deceit. We must be careful not to be led astray.
We know that drugs and the safeguarding of life cannot go together.
Let me give an example. Drug addiction illustrates what Jesus said about those who steal, kill and destroy. It robs us of our dignity; it kills; it destroys. Some may be fooled into thinking this is a form of entertainment, and a means to have fun and enjoy life. We know that drugs and the safeguarding of life cannot go together. If you are fooled, you will gradually realise you have been taken in, and there have been harmful consequences for your life and wellbeing. That is why Jesus tells us to be on the alert against such a deceit that is dangerous and a risk for our life and that of others.
Let us take the care for the environment as an example. In the Psalm, we said: “In green pastures he leads me”. We immediately grasp the idea of the beauty of creation, how it gives us life, gives us healthy air to breathe. We can, however, argue – mistakenly – that instead of life in abundance, we should seek construction in abundance, and thus diminish life- sustaining air. We would not be authentically looking after our life, and that of others, if we do not respect creation.
Therefore, when Jesus says, “life in abundance”, he does not mean that one can grab, and hoard, and indulge in greed to have more. That is not the “life in abundance” Jesus refers to. On the contrary, his is a life that gives us blessings, peace and joy, which make our life beautiful, and help us to share these gifts with others.
We would not be authentically looking after our life, and that of others, if we do not respect creation.
Therefore, in today’s Mass, let us pray to God, that through him we will always receive life and life in abundance. Let us pray that he will always be the Good Shepherd who leads us on the right path. Let us pray today especially for those he has chosen as shepherds in his name – the priests and religious for whom we are praying in a special way in this Sunday during Eastertide. We pray that in their mission of service they may help people to have life and life in abundance.
✠ Joseph Galea-Curmi