From The Pastor’s Desk
– Red Riding Hood and The GOOD Shepherd –
Who of us do not love a good storyfrom the moment we are able to sit up in bed as little children.
As children, the hope is that there is someone lying down on the bed next to us to read us bed time stories, like the one today’s Good Shepherd Gospel may remind us of: Little Red Riding Hood. “One day her mother said to her, “Come, Little Red Rid-ing Hood, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother, they will do her good. Just as Little Red Riding Hood entered the wood, a wolf met her. “What a tender young creature. What a nice plump mouthful, she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both.” So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red Riding Hood, and then he said, “see Little Red Riding Hood, how pretty the flowers are about here. Why do you not look round.” When she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing every-where, she thought, suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay. That would please her too. And while Red Riding Hood ventured off the path-this gave the wolf time to run to Grandma’s house-eat her and lie in wait to do the same with Red, which is exactly what occurs-a double devouring! The wolf then fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself-I must see if she wants anything. When he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was ly-ing in it. “Do I find you here, you old sinner,” said he. “I have long sought you.” Then prying open the wolf’s stomach-Red Riding Hood and her grandmother came out alive. Little Red Riding Hood, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead. Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf’s skin and went home with it. But Little Red Rid-ing Hood thought to herself, as long as I live, I will never again by myself leave the path my Mother forbid me to.” From the moment we are placed in the womb of our mother, our journey begins and of course any journey must have a destination, what then exactly is our destination-is it happily ever after? Of course, who of us do not want to be happy-but is an emotion a desti-nation, there is no greater journey for anyone to take than a Christian for our destination is not an emotion or even place of happiness but a person who is pure joy, someone who is our happily and peace and love ever after-Jesus Christ. One of the great Easter Stories is the Road to Emmaus. Two disciples who are walking away from Jerusalem where the passion and death of Christ has taken place. In their heart brokenness and disappointment, the jour-ney seems to imply that they have given up all faith and hope, certainly in the Christ who they believe to be dead and not the Messiah He made Himself out to be. But how soon that feeling is to change and how it changes is the fairy tale formula of how things will change in our lives and in our whole world-if as Red Riding Hood’s Mom insists, once back on the proper path we do not leave it. But here’s the kicker-even if we do leave it-all is not lost as it wasn’t for Red Riding Hood because what is it that happens-the Huntsman comes along and saves the day just at that moment when all seemed lost-when Red and her Grandma were dead. And so must it have been for all the Apostles who wit-nessed the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross that Good Friday-how all must have seemed lost-all that they were led to believe about Jesus being the Son of God and the Messiah must have died with Him that day. And how often have we felt that way, so disappointed so depressed as to have lost all hope in oneself or worse in Christ Himself and when the darkness gets darker how easier it is to get off the beaten path or perhaps we have been tempted off that path by the real life wolf and Villain the Devil, who holds before us that same shiny fruit he held before the eyes of Adam and Eve so that eating it, they could become like God themselves-craving His power-not His love. And what is Jesus’ response to our self-destructive off-roading tendencies: As today’s Gospel reminds us He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. And beating back those wolves, the good shepherd even at the cost of personal injury or worse death-ensures that the sheep return safe and sound to the sheepfold to graze happily ever after-as Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shep-herd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.” But not Jesus, which reminds us of one of the most be-loved hymns of all time Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me And there is the formula-the right path is not so much the path that while walking it brings one the most joy and happiness-the right path is the one with Jesus Christ walking along-side you on because like it or not, as we are experiencing right now-we must walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death- That we must make our Way of the Cross to Calvary and it is a journey that is filled with great danger-great loss-great disappointment-great sorrow-but we must maintain that Divine Mercy Attitude of Jesus “I trust in you” and repeat with confidence those same words of the Psalmist-”I will fear no evil for you are with me.” As the Huntsmen is able to liberate Red Riding Hood and Grandma from the belly of the wolf-we are saved from the belly of Hell where death is everlasting-we are pried freed from the grasp of the devil, and like the stones dropped on the big bad wolf, there is one stone that is dropped on the big bad devil-and that is the same stone that was once placed before the Tomb of Christ-what once appeared as the ultimate defeat is instead transformed into the greatest victory. Oh the joy Red and her Grandmother must have felt be-ing liberated from the awful darkness of death inside that wicked wolf, but how greater must have been the Hunts-man’s joy having liberating them, having destroyed the wolf. What must our joy be then knowing Christ is Risen, knowing that because He is, one day we shall be as well? The relief of Red’s Mom knowing her daughter and her mom are safe and alive! The relief knowing that loved ones who have passed are safe and alive in the arms of Christ, who waits to embrace us? But what then must be the Joy of Jesus knowing that He has liberated us from death, from the devil, from all de-spair-what Joy must there be for the Father knowing His children are safe and sound having been rescued by who the Prophet Isaiah describes of the Messiah, “the God-Hero” who is Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd the very best Shepherd. As awful as pain and sorrow are in this life-can we imagine any of our favorite adventure stories having none of those elements-no obstacles to overcome-no villains to defeat-no set-backs to return from-no snatching victory from the mouth of defeat-we can only fully appreciate the joy of Easter having experienced the terrible and horrific pains and sorrows and seeming de-feat of Good Friday. God’s joy is greater than our own because He is infinite joy-and this infinite joy is now ours if only we remain on that path with Christ.