A number of years' ago I read a book titled Heroic Leadership. It is about the 500 year history of the Jesuits. In the book, they give four key principles which enabled the Jesuits to survive during some very turbulent times. The four principles are: self awareness - knowing who you are and what you value, ingenuity - exploring new ideas, love, and heroism.
Today I want to focus on the last principle, which is: when the opportunity presents itself, do something heroic. There is no question that Jesus did this when he died on the cross for us. He is the best example of heroism the world has ever known. He was even willing to give up his life for us.
In today's Gospel, we are given the image of Jesus the shepherd. John is encouraging his community to pay attention to the shepherd, who is present to and guides his flock. They are to listen to him. And he even pays attention and listens to us, the sheep of his flock. If we hear the voice of the Shepherd, we will remain close to him and he will strengthen us as the world closes in and opposes us- as it did to him.
We are meant to follow Jesus, our shepherd. Many of us are also shepherds for others in our roles as parents, grandparents, friends, bosses, and co-workers. In these situations, we are meant be like Jesus and lead them to him. I know that this isn't always easy. And, like Jesus, we may be ridiculed, and face resistance in our attempts.
So, this is the act of heroism that all of us are meant to perform during our lives. We are meant to lead others to Jesus, even if we are ridiculed and our efforts don't seem to be bearing fruit. We are meant to lead others to Christ by our words and our actions. Now, this may not seem to be heroic - especially if we only talk to those who are members of our own community. But, we all know how difficult it is to bring up Jesus and our Catholic faith to others. It certainly isn't easy. But, that is our role, to shepherd those who we come into contact with and to lead them to Jesus' flock.
Of course, it is especially important to lead our family and our friends to Christ. When we get to heaven, we will want all of them to be there with us. And sometimes it is more difficult to talk to them than it is to talk to someone we hardly know. That is why this evangelization effort requires constant heroism. When the opportunity presents itself, do something heroic. When the opportunity presents itself to lead some lost sheep toward Jesus, the Good Shepherd, do it.
Now, you may say that you don't know enough about Christ and his Church to do this. If you don't, you should. Pick up your bible and your Catechism and learn your faith. Turn on EWTN or Sacred Heart Radio or log onto our faith formation web site: formed.org and watch the programs, listen to the CD's, watch the religious movies, and read the books. The Catholic telegraph called this site, Netflix for Catholics. There simply isn't any excuse these days for not knowing your faith. And if you struggle with some aspects of your faith, come see Father Bernie, Father Wood, or me to discuss these areas.
Many times during our lives we are faced with a critical decision. Often, we can decide to either take the easy way or the difficult, road less traveled. Normally, our world tells us to take the easy way out, the path of least resistance. In fact, we might even be ridiculed if we go against the tide.
We are not meant to wander off from the rest of the flock and go it alone. While it is possible to attempt to follow Christ on our own, that isn't the model that Jesus left for us in his church. He is the way, the truth, and the life. If we attempt to discover truth on our own, we will be deceived by the evil one. We are meant to follow Christ in community so that we have the love and support of each other, especially on the difficult parts of our journey.
Perform an act of heroism by telling your family and your friends about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Tell them how you have experienced the love of Jesus in your life. Share your faith. Your reward will be heavenly.