Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…
This Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Easter. It is also known as the Good Shepherd Sunday. On this Sunday the church invites us to pray more intensely for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We know that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and we are all his sheep. But we are called to be a “good shepherd.” We need to become good shepherds and good leaders; everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials and caregivers, among others, are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time, talents and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties by giving good examples and instructions to their children; training them in Christian principles. I would like to share with you the three examples of being a good shepherd.
- The most beautiful and meaningful comment on the life and the legacy of our late Holy Father, Pope St. John Paul II, was made by the famous televangelist, Billy Graham. In a TV interview, he said: “He lived like his Master, the Good Shepherd, and he died like his Master, the Good Shepherd.”
- The Jews had a lovely legend to explain why God chose Moses to be the leader of His people. “When Moses was feeding the sheep of his father-in-law in the wilderness, a young lamb ran away. Moses followed it until it reached a ravine, where it found a well to drink from. When Moses caught up to it, he said: `I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be weary.’ He took the lamb on his shoulders and carried it back. Then God said: `Because you have shown pity in leading back one of a flock belonging to another man, you shall lead my flock Israel.'”
- In San Salvador, on March 24, 1980, an assassin killed Archbishop Oscar Romero, with a single shot to the heart while he was saying Mass. Only a few minutes before, Archbishop Romero had finished a hope-filled homily in which he urged the people to serve one another. Since Archbishop Romero was demanding human rights for his people under oppression, he knew that his life was in danger. Still he persisted in speaking out against tyranny and for freedom. He once told newspapermen that even if his enemies killed him, he would rise again among his people.
Today, good shepherds who lay down their lives are husbands and wives who can’t do enough for each other to demonstrate their commitment to each other; parents who make countless sacrifices for the good of their children; teachers who spend untold hours instructing the weak students; doctors and nurses who work untiringly, spending themselves to care for their patients; employers who share profits with their workers; politicians who unselfishly promote the common good of their voters, and parishioners who generously support their parish community.
Today’s Gospel has two parts in it. The first part of today’s Gospel contrasts Jesus, the true Shepherd, with fake shepherds, thieves and robbers. Jesus gives us warning against false shepherds and false teachers in his Church. Jesus’ love and concern for each of us must be accepted with trust and serenity because he alone is our Shepherd, and no one else deserves our undivided commitment. As a true Shepherd, he leads his sheep, giving them the food and protection only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, can provide, and he protects us and leads us to true happiness.
The second part of the Gospel, Jesus compares himself to the Shepherd and to the Gate. The first title represents His ownership because a Shepherd is the true owner of the sheep. The second title represents His leadership. Jesus is the Gate, the only Way. He is the One Mediator between God and mankind. All must go through Him, through His Church, in order to arrive in Heaven. By identifying Himself with the sheep-gate, Jesus gives the assurance that whoever enters the pen through Him will be safe and well cared-for. Jesus is the living Door to His Father’s house and Father’s family, the Door into the Father’s safety and into the fullness of life. There is safety and security in being a Christian.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday let us take time to pray for vocations. All Christians share in the responsibility of fostering these vocations: a) the faith community must continuously pray for vocations both in the Church and in their families. b) Since good priests, deacons and people embracing the consecrated life come from good Christian families, all Christian parents need to live their faith in Christ on a daily basis by leading exemplary lives as parents and by fostering good relationships with, and among, their children. c) Parents need to respect and encourage a child who shows an interest in becoming a priest or deacon or of entering upon a consecrated life. Parents need to encourage their children, including their teenagers and young adults, to participate actively in the parish. They also need to encourage and actively support them in becoming altar servers, gift-bearers, lectors and ministers of hospitality, youth group members etc.
God Bless You,