May 5, 2020 Father De Celles Homily

4th Sunday of Easter

May 3, 2020

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:

“whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate

but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.

…I am the gate for the sheep.”

In other words, if you go through the gate, you share in Jesus’ eternal life

but if you try another way, you lose all of that.

But the key to the text is this: Jesus is the gate.

And as He says elsewhere,

“No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Essentially this is the dogma that there is no salvation apart from Jesus.

Now, of course, the Church teaches that salvation is possible even to those,

“who through no fault of their own do not know

the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God

and moved by grace strive…to do His will as it is known to them …”

It is still Christ who saves them,

because it is Him they seek and Him who gives them grace,

even if they don’t recognize it.

Even so, for those who know Jesus, it’s hard enough to do God’s will,

so for those who don’t know Him, how do they know what God wants?

—it’s a terrible struggle, for some, almost impossible.

But thanks be to God, you and I do know Jesus.

And we know that if we follow Him,

we can and enter into the sheepfold and into heaven through Him.

But how do we do this–how do we enter through Him?


Jesus tells us that He is “the gate.”

What else does Scripture tell us Jesus is?

St. John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is “the truth” and the “Word made flesh.”

Jesus is the word of God, the revelation of God,

the self-explanation of who God is and what God created us for,

and the truth about what God expects us to do, how God expects us to love.

So when we enter through the gate that is Jesus,

we enter through the truth of His teaching.

And we don’t get to pick and choose which teachings,

          as Jesus tells us: “enter through the narrow gate.”

And He says, “Whoever is not with me is against me…”

So the gate that is Jesus is all He has revealed,

from the basics of the 10 commandments,

to the sublime mystery of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity.


Scripture also tells us that the Church is the Body of Christ,

or as we would say, the mystical Body of Christ.

So that if we must enter through the gate that is Christ,

in some way we must enter through His Church, His Body.

And by the Church, we mean, the Church He founded, upon Peter as the Rock,

with the apostles as the foundation stones,

          which is all of us together in union with the bishops and pope,

with Christ as our head. 

That is, the Catholic Church.

Now, again, some, “through no fault of their own do not know …His Church…”

at least, not in its fullness, for example, devout Protestants,

but they sincerely strive to follow Christ as best they can, with His grace.

But Jesus gave us the Church, as His body,

so we could be part of His body, and so one with Him,

and move and grow together as a body moves and grows

together as one with the head,

and so to be one with Him on earth and in heaven.

So the gate, in some sense, is the Church, which is the Body of Christ.

And so we hold tight to the Church, and follower her teachings,

and take advantage of the many sacraments and sacramentals,

and pray her prayers and liturgies,

and learn from her teachers, fathers, doctors, and saints.

Remembering, that the Church

is more than just one pope or one bishop or one priest,

whether those be saintly or corrupt,

but the whole of the Body, and all of her treasure,

dating from the Cross to today.


So Jesus is the gate we must enter to share in eternal life

and that gate, Jesus, is or includes His teaching and His Church.

But there is another important thing that Scripture tells us Jesus is.

All this week at Daily Mass we’ve been reading from John Chapter 6.

And there, Jesus repeatedly insists,

“I am the Bread of Life.”

“The bread that I will give you is my flesh, for the life of the world”

“unless you eat the flesh of the son of man…

you do not have life within you.”

Jesus is the Gate, and Jesus is the Eucharist, so the Gate is the Eucharist.

These last six weeks you have not been able to receive the Eucharist.

Does this mean you are not entering the Gate.

In a very important sense, no.

After all, you have received the Eucharist many times in our lives.

And today you want Him again, and yearn for Communion.

And I hope you all make spiritual communions,

especially when you watch this mass on livestream or video

—asking Jesus to give the grace of the Sacrament of His Body and Blood

to you, who love Him.

The Eucharist is a sure real presence and source of His grace,

          but He is God and is not restricted in giving His grace

however He chooses to those whom He finds worthy.

But even so, He gave us the Eucharist on purpose.

He wants us to receive it.

The fear of many priests I know is that

having gotten used to watching the Mass in the comfort of your own home,

some of you may think that is sufficient,

and stay home when public Masses come back.

But we have to remember, when you watch the livestreaming of the Mass

you are really just looking at a sophisticated picture of the Mass.

You are not present,

and so you don’t participate in the Mass the same way as if you were here.

As helpful as watching at home is,

you don’t actually receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus

in Communion.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem to be present to us.

He didn’t just send an image, He came Himself,

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

It takes a lot of effort, focus and devotion,

as well as an extraordinary act of God’s mercy,

for you to receive the same graces of the Mass and Communion

while watching a moving picture at home,

as you would if you were here kneeling in the pew.

The Eucharist is the gate: the laptop and the TV screen are not.


These last 6 weeks of the coronavirus shutdown

have been a challenge in many ways.

For some, it’s been the challenge of the illness itself.

For others, the economic or emotional challenges.

For all of us, though, it can be a time of spiritual renewal.

A time for considering what is most important in our lives,

what is truly necessary and helpful,

and what is simply nice, or even distraction, or even evil.

For Catholics, it should be a time of considering

what gate do I go through on the typical day of my life

—the narrow gate or the wide gate?

And if I think I’m going through the narrow gate,

am I really going through it, or am I just trying to climb over the fence?

In short, am I going through Jesus, or am I going around Him, or away from Him.

Am I going through His teaching,

keeping His commandments, believing and hoping in His promises,

holding to and defending His truth?

Am I going through His Church, learning from her, defending her,

and benefiting from all the treasures she hands down to me?

And am I going through the Eucharist?

Do I take the Mass and Communion for granted?

Do I really focus on what Christ is doing in the Mass,

as He makes His Cross and Resurrection present on the altar,

as He personally descends to be with us and in us,

taking all our prayers and sacrifices, and joining them to his

as He offers Himself eternally to the Father for our sins.

Do I truly open my mind and heart at Mass

and enter into the mystery of His unfathomable love,

and strive to return that love, with awe, devotion, self-gift

and enduring conversion?


As I go to the altar of God today,

I pray that we all be open to the many graces He has in store for us.

And that this time of separation may be for each of us

a time of reevaluation, realization and reprioritization.

So that we may enter anew the gate that is Jesus,

          today and every day.

Through His teaching, His church and His Eucharist.

“Whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate

but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.

…I am the gate for the sheep.”