Monsignor Ryan’s Homily for May 12th

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Fifty years ago, those lyrics by Mick Jagger were at the top of the charts. I can’t say that I have ever been a fan of the Rolling Stones; but as events unfolded in two schools in our nation within the past two weeks, the words of the song, Gimme Shelter, sprang to mind. I would think that those words – or words like them – were running through the minds of every student in classrooms and halls of the University of North Carolina and Stem School Highlands Ranch as gunmen began their lethal assaults. “The floods is threat’ning my very life today. Gimme, gimme shelter…” In both schools, shelter was given by fellow students who acted very much in the manner of Jesus the Good Shepherd, laying down their lives that others might live. Riley Howell of whom it was said, “He cared about people more than himself,” took three bullets before stopping the assailant at UNC and Kendrick Castillo, described by a former teacher as “a living saint,” tackled one gunman at Highlands Ranch before succumbing to a bullet himself. Good Shepherds both, except that they should never have been exposed to situations that called for heroic action on the part of young men who were simply pursuing their educations.
The liturgy on this Good Shepherd Sunday calls for reflection – reflection about joy in the midst of tribulation, about survival, and about shelter.
“The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit,” St. Luke tells us. But this joy comes on the heels of fierce opposition to Paul and Barnabas’ preaching. And that odd juxtaposition of joy and suffering runs throughout events that unfold after the disciples receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Just last Sunday, we heard how Peter and the apostles “left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor of the sake of the name.”
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Jesus’ Resurrection was not the end, but it was definitely the beginning of the end. After Calvary failed to defeat Jesus, evil no longer had a chance for ultimate victory; but it was far from eradicated. We must struggle against it in every age. And Riley and Kendrick struggled against it in its most detestable form: the slaughter of innocents. Love conquered in the classrooms as it conquered on the cross, but not without immense sacrifice.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” So, the Good Shepherd, himself. Yet Jesus could never have dared to make such a claim unless he was prepared to be not only the Good Shepherd, but also the Lamb of God. The lamb led to the slaughter on Calvary has become the Lamb standing at the center of God’s throne, handing out palm branches to all whose self-forgetful love had brought them through the great tribulation safe and sound.
All of that being said, we must still groan and weep at the loss of two outstanding young men and dozens more victims of gun violence. “The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.” And, indeed, he will. But we cannot remain deaf to the cries of the young people of our nation crying out, “Gimme shelter, or…” That cry should not have to be answered by schoolmates, children like themselves. We must find ways to give them shelter, so that no child should have to wonder how she or he will react if gunfire breaks out at school.
It will be no small challenge to provide that assurance of safety. But, perhaps on this Mothers” Day, we can begin by going to the mother who never ceases to offer shelter to all her children who turn to her in their need. So, together we pray, “Virgin most Powerful, Virgin Most Merciful, Mother of Good Counsel, Comforter of the Afflicted, Cause of our Joy, pray for us.”

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