Sunday, 7 May 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fourth one in the entire season of Easter, we always celebrate the one aspect of God which endears Him to us, that He is our Good Shepherd, the One Who guided the faithful people of God to Himself. Today the Scripture readings reflect precisely that fact, showing to us, how God loved the whole world and all mankind, who are His beloved ones.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why then God chose to be known as a Good Shepherd? Surely He can let Himself be known as a great King, or a Teacher, or as a great Being, with titles more befitting of His stature as God. There were indeed a lot of other professions far more worthy and reputable at that time, and even as it is today, a shepherd is not a particularly well-liked or well-respected work. Yet, it is truly a noble profession in reality.

But at the time of Jesus, as well as the time of the ancestors of the people of Israel, many of the people were shepherds, as there were also many farmers and fishermen. Jesus was using parables to teach the people about the truth of God, and in the same manner therefore, just as He had used the parables of the seeds being sown in comparing the kingdom of God and explaining it to them, therefore, Jesus also compared Himself to shepherds in how He were to carry out His mission in this world.

A shepherd’s main duty is to watch over his sheep, the animal which were herded by the shepherds, as they grazed the grasslands for food. The shepherd must ensure that the sheep are protected from harm, such as wolves which would hunt sheep that are not kept in the protection of its shepherd. And sometimes, the sheep may also be separated from the flock, and becomes lost. In that case, it is the shepherd’s duty to find out where the sheep is and return it back to the flock.

But not all shepherds cared for the sheep in that expected way. Many of the shepherds were paid in order to do their job, and they only did the job as far as it benefitted them. They did not truly care for the sheep, and they would be unwilling to go the extra mile for the sake of these sheep. They would want to do only what was expected of them based on what they received.

The moment that difficulty comes upon the sheep and the flock, these people were likely to be the ones who would leave the sheep behind, caring only for their own safety and not that of the sheep. Then, how is it that the Lord is our Good Shepherd? He is the Good Shepherd precisely because He truly loves us and cares about us, as how shepherds are supposed to be. He loves us all just as much as a shepherd cares about his sheep, and even more so.

He does not abandon us or ignore us when we are in trouble. And when we are led astray, as sheep in reality had often done, He is the One Who is concerned about us, and immediately, He will go forth and find a way in order to return us to His loving embrace. It is just how much He cared for us mankind, all of His beloved ones who had become astray in this world, because we have disobeyed Him and sinned against Him.

We have become lost from the Lord, not because the Lord had cast us out from His presence, but rather because we ourselves chose to be lost and be separated from God. Had the Lord not loved us or cared for us, He would just abandon us to our fated destruction, as the punishment and consequence for sin is death, and not just death but eternal death, the damnation of our souls for eternity in hell.

That is not what the Lord intended for us, brothers and sisters in Christ. He loves each and every one of us so much, that as shepherds do, He is willing to even lay down His life for our sake. When faced with trouble, a shepherd who cares for his sheep will shelter the sheep even if he himself were to face danger by doing so. Thus in the same way, the Lord had loved us, even to the point of giving Himself for our sake, that through His suffering and death, we may be spared the fate of our destruction.

And therefore, by that great love which He had for us, He had inspired all of us to love. He has taught us real love by His own examples. That is why as Christians all of us should love each other just as He had loved us first. And He has called upon those whom He had chosen to be His servants, those who dedicated themselves completely to serve the Lord and His people, namely our priests and bishops, all those who have entered into the holy orders.

Thus, today we celebrate Vocations Sunday, a day of remembrance and prayer for all those who have received God’s call in life and chose to follow Him and dedicate themselves completely to Him. They are our shepherds, that is our priests and bishops. They are the ones who take care of us as God’s chosen shepherds, that by imitating the same examples and actions that He as our Good Shepherd had done, all of us may grow ever stronger in God’s love.

But this is certainly not an easy vocation to be done. As the Lord Himself encountered dangers, challenges, opposition and much difficulty in His mission on earth, therefore, the same thing will also happen to those shepherds He had chosen, our priests and bishops. They must persevere through those challenges, the temptations to give up their vocations and good works, and without our support, it will be difficult for them to persevere through.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore support our priests, our bishops and all those who have decided to commit themselves completely to the service of God. Let us provide them help and support in whatever way we can give, and pray for their sake, that God will protect them and grant them strength to persevere through the challenges of life.

And for those of us who have heard the Lord calling us to serve Him, let us not close our hearts and minds to Him, and let us all not ignore His call. Let us instead pray that we may discern what is the path that God had called us to walk on, and follow Him in obedience, serving Him and our fellow brethren in whatever way, be it through our daily contributions in life, and to the most noble cause of all, by dedicating our whole lives entirely to God in answering His call to the sacred priesthood, if we choose to do so.

May God bless us all, and bless our Church, all the multitudes of our priests and bishops, all those in the holy orders, who have given their all for the Lord and His people. May God be with us all, be with His Church, now and forevermore. May our Good Shepherd continue to love us and help us to walk in His path. Amen.

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