Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fourth in the season of Easter we celebrate the special occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday, alluding to the Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus revealed Himself as the one and true Good Shepherd of all, as the One Who leads all the people, the flock of God’s faithful ones, to Himself and into salvation and eternal glory.
And this Sunday is also known as the Vocation Sunday, as we are all reminded of the role of those who have been called by God to be His priests, that is to be called to be shepherds, shepherds for the flock of the people of God. They have all been called to be shepherds in the image of the one and true Good Shepherd, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in their service and ministry to the faithful.
The Lord used the imagery of a shepherd in delivering the truth about His own ministry and work to the people because at that time, many of the people were shepherds and those who dealt with the flock of sheep and goats, cattle and all animals reared for their meat, or fleece or for milk. And by making the use of allegory and approximation to the role of shepherd in managing the flocks of animals, He wanted to show us how truly He is leading us down the right path, while at the same time loving each and every one of us so tenderly and dearly.
In the Scripture readings today the meaning and significance of this Good Shepherd and Vocation Sunday are brought forth to us, beginning with the Good Shepherd Himself, our Lord Jesus, Who is the model of all the shepherds of God’s people, as He came into this world, calling upon all of His sheep to come to Himself. In another occasion in the Gospel, the Lord used the example of a shepherd and his sheep again to bring across this point, in the parable of the lost sheep.
In that parable, He mentioned how the Good Shepherd, one who is truly loving and caring towards the sheep will leave behind for a while all the ninety-nine sheep that he has shepherded, and go to search for the one sheep that was lost from him. He will not rest until the lost sheep has been found, and when he manages to find the lost sheep, the joy he has is far greater than the joy of having the other ninety-nine. This does not mean that the ninety-nine sheep worth less than the one lost sheep. But rather, without the one sheep, the joy of the shepherd is not complete.
And that is what He has called His Apostles and disciples to do, to be the shepherds in His image and following His example, to gather all the people of God, those who have been lost and scattered away from Him. In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how the Apostles, St. Paul and St. Barnabas travelled from place to place proclaiming the Good News of God and preaching the Lord’s truth to the people.
The people listened to them and many became believers, leaving behind their pagan ways. This is what it means by the shepherds going out of their way to find the lost sheep. The lost sheep themselves are the people of God who have become lost in the darkness of this world, tempted by sin and by the darkness of this world. By calling upon them, the Apostles gathered the Lord’s flock and prevented them from being lost forever to the Lord.
And the works of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord are far from being complete, as there are still always a lot of the Lord’s lost sheep in this world, all the time, even to this present day and world. In fact, in our present day and world, there are even more and more difficulties and challenges that the world is presenting us, as the threat of secularism and indifference towards God and faith are ever growing, and those who advocate the end of the faith and belief in God are growing ever more vocal and influential.
This is also compounded by the fact that fewer and fewer people are willing and interested to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His priests, all those who are the forefront of the Church’s mission and work among the people, the shepherds whom the Lord send out to gather the lost sheep of His flock. And in our present day world today, we are aware of the many challenges faced not just by our priests and all the ordained, but also by the lack of vocation in many places all around the world.
That is why on this Sunday, all of us remember both Christ, our loving Good Shepherd, Who knows each and every one of us, His beloved sheep, that He wants to gather us all and keep us away from the dangers of this world. He has done exactly what He Himself said the good shepherd would do, that is to lay down His life for the sake of His sheep. He laid down His life on the cross, enduring all the bitter suffering, pain and punishment for our sins, that all of us may live and not perish.
And then we also remember all of our priests, all those whom God had called to follow His examples, to the ministry of being shepherds of the Church. They have enormous task awaiting them, as well as many difficult challenges that often become great obstacles in their path, and which surely often make them sorrowful, sad, and even stressed. Our priests and all those whom God had appointed to be shepherds, including our bishops and the Pope need our support and our prayers.
Let us also last of all remember to pray for all those whom God had called, those who have embraced the call and entered the seminary formation, studying and preparing themselves to become one of the Lord’s shepherds, as well as those other young and courageous men of all kinds who have been stirred by God in their hearts and minds to follow Him. Let us all pray that they will be able to discern their path in life, and that they will have the courage to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles.
May the Lord be with our shepherds, that all of them will be like Him, our one and true, and loving Good Shepherd, that in all things, they will give their all to love the flock of God’s faithful, and bring us all closer to Him and His salvation. Amen.