Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd/Vocation Sunday)

Christ, the Good Shepherd
Catacombs of St. Priscilla
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
John 10:27-30

Good Shepherd Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter in our liturgical calendar. The name derives from the Gospel readings on this day which are taken from the 10th chapter of John. In recent times this day has also become known as Vocations Sunday, a day on which prayers should be said for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The image of the shepherd and his sheep is a very old one in Scripture. We have the popular images of Jesus the Good Shepherd. In some we see Jesus holding a lamb over his shoulders. Or we have a smiling Jesus sitting under a tree, with a cute little lamb on his lap. A shepherd in those days didn’t walk behind the flock beating them with a stick to keep them moving. He walked in front of them, seeking out a safe path to food and water and shelter. The sheep followed him, because they recognized his voice, and they trusted him. Jesus tells us that kind of Good Shepherd he is. He leads, and we follow.

The readings are intimately linked with the second theme of this Sunday. Not only is it Good Shepherd Sunday, it is also “Vocations Sunday.” On this day we are especially asked first of all to pray that the Church may be provided with the leaders needed to do its work of spreading the Gospel. Let us pray to the Lord that we may be His good sheep, listening attentively to His voice, and follow His example of self-giving love. Let us also pray for all our shepherds. May they follow the example of Jesus who was willing to serve and lay down His life for His sheep. Jesus our Shepherd is the Way, Truth and Life. He is the one who goes after the lost sheep leaving the ninety-nine to bring it back to the fold. Today let us pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, that many will be inspired to show true love, to the point of sacrificing many other attractive options to become consecrated to Jesus, to follow him in religious life.

Can any serious Christian say that they haven't at some point asked in prayer what it was that God wanted of them? Is God calling me in some way, at some time, to some place to follow Him more closely? Conversion is usually accompanied by this desire to serve - to surrender oneself to the will of God. On times of discernment the prayer used by Blessed John Henry Newman clearly expressed this sentiment:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.