Good Shepherd Sunday
Readings: Acts 4,8-12, Psalm 118,8-9, 21-23, 26, 28-29, 1 John 3,1-2, John 10, 11-18
Today we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Easter also called the Good shepherd Sunday and it also the vocations Sunday, a day in which we pray for different vocations as a Church. The major theme that we reflect upon on this day comes from the image of Christ the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep and through whose example we find inspiration for our different vocations that are all geared towards a loving service to one another.
The Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep
The good shepherd, lays down his life (John 10,11). He is not afraid of losing his life but is rather ready to offer it for the sake of the sheep. Christ has done this for us in his passion and death upon the cross. He took our place upon the cross out of the immense love that he has for us. This is a love beyond measure, beyond compare. As a good shepherd, he remains with the sheep even when the enemy attacks, he defends them, meaning that Christ is always besides us, fighting our battles against the enemy, against evil. He desires to lead us to total satisfaction and is concerned about our good. We are those sheep that he lays down his life for. “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10,14). He knows us, and we ought to know him. Do we all know him really? If we know him then we must listen to his voice, there is a mutual relationship of knowing each other between the sheep and the shepherd.
The good shepherd leads all into a common flock, even those that are currently astray. He is the uniting factor among the flock. However, from my experience of being a shepherd of my father’s sheep, the problem always lays with the sheep, not the shepherd. And it comes about because of lack of trust. The sheep want to go their own way, they don’t listen. They are driven by their own hunger, appetite, and pleasures and they want to go by these. The most disturbing moment for a shepherd is when the sheep have just been released, they don’t listen to the voice of the shepherd, they are just driven by hunger and they run from one place to the other unsatisfied even when the grass around is succulent enough. The next terrible moment is when they are mating. They run crazy and become uncontrollable. As the flock that the Lord tends, this must help us to watch our appetites, watch our sentiments because often, they are the obstacle to our listening to the voice of the shepherd. They lead us to selfish attitudes. All that the good shepherd desires of us is to trust in him so that he leads us to the green pastures, and fills our cups to overflowing (Psalm 23).
The mutual relationship is built on the aspect of listening to the shepherd’s voice, so as to be familiar with it and trust him when he calls or directs us. The more we listen to him, the more we become familiar with his voice and we are able to distinguish it from the voice of the enemy. This is our first call, to listen to him, to be with him and to learn from him. This is where we draw the example to respond to our vocations and fulfill its demands. Only by his name, only by his call shall we be saved. (Acts 4,8-12)
The hired man abandons the sheep
Through the different vocations that each one of us has received from God, we also participate in the vocation of the good shepherd that is to render a loving service to the flock of his that he calls us to serve. As teachers, as doctors, as carpenters and religious as married men and women and many other vocations, God invites us to be shepherds to the people that he calls us to serve. The example of the hired laborer or hired man (John 10,12) is to help us watch the bad attitudes that distract us from the flock entrusted to our care. We must not set as priority our own personal gains at the expense of the sheep entrusted to us. We must learn from the good shepherd and be ready to lay down our lives for the service of others. Not to run away from the people we serve when problems arise, but remain with them, to defend them. To give a selfless service to our communities. That is how our vocations become authentic and we identify with the chief shepherd. We must have concern for the good of others whom God calls us to serve in the different opportunities that he has given us. Including in politics or any civil service. As St Peter (1 Peter, 5,2-3) reminds us in his first letter, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is entrusted to you, watch over it not simple as a duty but gladly because God wants it, not for money but because you are eager to do it and when the chief shepherd appears you will be given the crown of unfading glory”.
Vocation; an opportunity to let the love of God reach out to others
Today we also remember the vocations Sunday. God calls us to be his witnesses through the different vocations that we have in the Church. So, it is a day we remember to pray that the Lord may call more laborers to his vineyard. A vocation is first and fore most a response to the love of God. Secondly, it is a call to serve the people of God through different careers literally speaking. So, what we communicate through our different vocations is the experience of God’s love for us. In his message for this day, our holy father Pope Francis gives us the example of saint Joseph as a model of vocation. There are three important aspects that he draws out from the life of St Joseph, namely; dream, service and fidelity. These words also apply to our own vocations.
Dream: Joseph was a silent listener, the obedient servant of God. He listened to what God told him in dreams, without hesitating and never uttering a word himself, but acting and putting whatever God told him into practice. Accepting to change his plan so that God’s plan can be actualized in him. In such simplicity God spoke to him, not in a spectacular way, taking away his freedom, not with dazzling visions, but quietly in the dreams whose message descended into his heart. Dreaming means also having certain ambitions for our life and how we want to spend it. What is your dream? Is it inline with what God calls you to?
Service: Means living for others. Always ready to respond to their needs. Never for ourselves alone. Vocation frees us from selfishness and makes us to see the need in others that God wants us to respond to. In serving we offer ourselves as gifts, supporting others in their struggles just as Joseph was to Jesus and Mary through his simple work of a carpenter.
Fidelity: Faithfulness, this is how vocation matures. “Do not be afraid Joseph”. Through these words God invites him to be faithful. The same words apply to us today most especially to the young men and women who are at the phase of discovering and discerning their vocation. “Do not be afraid”. God spoke these words to Joseph to assure him that he is with him and to give him courage. Through our fidelity to God’s call, we shall attain the joy of working for the Lord. May the Lord through the Holy Spirit enable each one of us discover our vocation and respond to it. Amen.