Sunday, 26 April 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, Vocation Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter, but also known more commonly as the Good Shepherd Sunday and as the Vocation Sunday. On this day, as we have heard from the readings of the Sacred Scriptures, the readings all highlight the nature of our Lord as the One True Shepherd, who is the Good Shepherd, the only One who truly loves us and cares for us unconditionally.

And from this the entire history of our salvation came about. God is our Shepherd and we are all His sheep, who roam in this world, that is the pasture of the Lord, the world as the range which He had created for us all His sheep. And we are like wayward sheep, who did not listen to the voice of the shepherd, and therefore we were lost, and we could not find our way back to safety.

God can just ignore us and pretend not to care about us. After all, He is the Lord of all things who is all perfect by Himself, and He has no need for others. But He loves all of us as His own, and He is our Father, who cares for all of His children greatly. He created us not so that He can dispose of us. Instead, His love for us is so great, that St. John in our second reading mentioned that for that great love, He had sent us such a great redemption, that He sent Himself, in the form of Jesus, His Son, as the Saviour to redeem all mankind from their fate of certain destruction.

The Good Shepherd cares about all of His sheep, and our Lord therefore cares for all of us greatly. He does not want us to fall prey to the wolves, that is Satan and his allies. That was why He did what He had done, that is to give Himself to us, as the Guide and Leader to lead us back to the right path to salvation. The shepherd guides the sheep so that they will find their way to the green pasture and not lost.

Therefore, today we reflect on our Lord as our Shepherd, the One whom we should heed always and follow. We have to aim our gaze always at Him and not be distracted by other things in the world. Why is this very important? That is because we are really very easily distracted by the many dark things in this world, and we are very easily persuaded to abandon our Shepherd and follow the whim of our own desires.

Ever since our first ancestors first succumbed to their desire, the want for knowledge and their greed for earthly desires, we have been made vulnerable to the same desires, and if we allow ourselves to be overcome and controlled by our desired, then that is where we shall fall, and we shall fall into damnation together with Satan and his angels if we are not careful.

Ever since Satan had been cast out of heaven and brought down low for his failed attempt to take over the throne of heaven out of his pride and vanity, he had resented all that God had created and crafted. And the greatest of all God’s creations is us mankind, whom therefore he tried to destroy as well, and the best way to do so, is by causing us to rebel against God as well, just as he had once done before and which he had done ever since.

Thus, it is like the wolves who desire to take the sheep away from the shepherd. They would surround the flock of sheep and wait for the opportune moment for some of the sheep to linger and stray beyond the flock, and then snatch them and destroy them. This is Satan’s aim, trying to snatch us away from the salvation which God had promised us, and which He had purchased with His own Body and Blood.

Remember that Jesus said that the Good Shepherd lays down His life and thus dies for His sheep? That was exactly what Jesus had done. He barred the wolves, that is Satan and his allies from coming through to get us. He protected us and shielded us, all because of His infinite love for all of us, and His everlasting desire to see us saved from the pain and suffering caused by our sins.

And thus we were indeed saved by our Lord, and we have been made whole again. But this does not mean that we are completely out of danger and harm’s path. Even though the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross have given mankind the salvation and the path to liberation from death and into life, but we require an active effort and participation in the work of salvation for us to be saved.

The shepherd knows his sheep and he knew them all by name. And thus, our Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ also knew us all, each and every single one of us. And He calls on us to join Him and walk with Him. Now, the issue is, are we willing to put in the effort to walk with Him and walk in His path? It may seem to be easy, but I can assure you that it will not be the case.

The world is the domain of the evil one and his allies, and therefore, the ways of this world are inherently not compatible with the ways of Christ our Lord. Thus, if we follow Him and walk in His footsteps, it is likely that we will encounter difficulties, opposition and ridicule. Remember, brethren, that Christ Himself had shown us an example, by enduring all the ridicule, all the persecution and rejection of the world, on His way to Calvary bearing the cross that is our sins.

Therefore, Christ had left us all a great gift, that is His Church, the union of all the faithful together as one people, united with Him in a spiritual Body of the faithful by the sharing of the Eucharist, which He left behind as the centre of the efforts which He had started to call back all the wayward souls and sheep of His flock, to return to His loving and caring embrace.

And He had also placed for us, shepherds to take care of us, to be His representatives, under the leadership of the chief shepherd of all, from St. Peter to his successors as the Vicars of Christ, the chief representative of our Lord, the One and True Shepherd of all in this world. The priests, all the members of the ordained ministry, the holy orders, including all the bishops and all whom have given themselves to fulfill God’s calling and to become His servants, we celebrate today on this occasion as well.

Thus, today is also Vocation Sunday, a day when we remember all those who have been called to vocation in the Lord, to take up a life of dedication to the Lord and His people, to be the shepherds to guide the flock of God on their way to God. Let us pray for them, that they will remain always strong amidst the difficulties and challenges that certainly will come their way.

But let us also not forget that on this day, we too should also heed the Lord’s call, especially those of us who are young and have not known what we are to do with our own lives. Let us pray that all the young men whom God had chosen and called to His service, may discern and find their path and purpose in life, and when the time comes, to become the shepherds of God’s people, accepting the heavy but fulfilling responsibility which God had entrusted them with.

O Lord, our Good Shepherd, our Master and our God, be with us always and love us always. And allow the love and devotion for You to grow ever stronger in our hearts. Help us to guide one another on our way to You, so that none of the sheep of Your flock may be lost. Be with our priests and all those who have dedicated themselves to Your service, and be with those whom You have called. Be with us always too, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 26 April 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, Vocation Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 11-18

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. Not so the hired hand, or any other person who is not the shepherd, and to whom the sheep do not belong. They abandon the sheep as soon as they see the wolf coming; then the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep. This is because the hired hand works for pay and cares nothing for the sheep.”

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father. Because of this, I give My life for My sheep. I have other sheep which are not of this fold. These I have to lead as well, and they shall listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, since there is one Shepherd.”

“The Father loves Me, because I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down freely. It is Mine to lay down and to take up again : this mission I received from My Father.”

Sunday, 26 April 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, Vocation Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-2

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children and what we shall be has not yet been shown. Yet when He appears in His glory, we know that we shall be like Him, for then we shall see Him as He is.

Sunday, 26 April 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, Vocation Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 117 : 1 and 8-9, 21-23, 26 and 28-29

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in the help of humans. It is befter to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in the might of princes.

I thank You for having answered me, for having rescued me. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it.

Blessed is He who comes in the Lord’s Name! We bless You from the house of the Lord. You are my God, and I give You thanks. You are my God, and I give You praise. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever!

Sunday, 26 April 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, Vocation Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 4 : 8-12

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke up, “Leaders of the people! Elders! It is a fact that we are being examined today for a good deed done to a cripple. How was he healed? You and all the people of Israel must know that this man stands before you cured through the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean. You had Him crucified, but God raised Him from the dead.”

“Jesus is the stone rejected by you the builders which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other Name given to humankind all over the world by which we may be saved.”