Sunday, 3 May 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Vocation Sunday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in the season of Easter we are approximately halfway through the season of Easter, and on this day we also celebrate the Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday as today’s Gospel is solely dedicated to the reading of the Good Shepherd from the Gospel of St. John. The Lord Himself is our Good Shepherd, the One Who has guided us all, the flock of the Lord, into the path that He has prepared for us.

And it is also a celebration of the Vocation Sunday because the Lord has also called some among us to follow Him to be shepherds in His image, to be shepherds like the Good Shepherd Himself. The shepherds are our priests, our bishops and all those who are called to serve the Lord to reach out to the people out there who need guidance, help and assistance. They are called to follow the examples of the Good Shepherd Himself in giving themselves to the people, the flock of the Lord.

That is why on this day traditionally priests, especially in the Diocese of Rome, are ordained to the priesthood. It is indeed symbolic of how all priests and therefore bishops are by extension, the shepherds of the Lord’s flock, given the responsibilities to take care of all these souls and all who may be struggling through their lives. That is why on this day, on Vocation Sunday, we pray firstly for our priests, for all of our bishops and all those who have given themselves through sacred ordination to be shepherds of the faithful, that God may strengthen and inspire them to be more like Himself, the Good Shepherd.

But we must also not forget to pray for vocations to the priesthood itself, as without new vocations to the priesthood, of the courageous and faithful men who want to give their lives in the service of God, then we will not have these courageous and faithful priests or even bishops in the end. That is why it is very important that on this day we also spend some time to pray for the vocation to priesthood that there will be bountiful harvest of vocations, that there will be many more holy priests, bishops and servants of God in the many more years to come.

Of course then we must also pray for all those who are discerning their calling to priesthood, for God has indeed called those whom He deems to be worthy and whom He has chosen from among the peoples and the nations. There are many people who are still not sure whether they want to pursue that calling to the sacred priesthood, while some others are still facing challenges and opposition from their families, relatives and from the communities, as well as facing many temptations that keep them away from their vocations in life.

Indeed, it is not easy for those who have been called by God to the sacred priesthood and to consider the life dedicated and consecrated to God. Often they will have to abandon the many comforts and achievements, the glories and the good things in life, in order to serve the Lord and His people with all their strength and might. There will be plenty of challenges for them all and many will be tempted to give up on their vocations, just as how we have heard sad stories even among the priests who had given up their calling and priesthood ministry.

And we also know of how some small minority of priests, very small minority in fact, had ended up in very high publicity for all sorts of wrong reasons, as they betrayed the responsibilities and also the trust and opportunities given to them. These were those priests who have been convicted and also suspected of improper behaviours and conduct, of various kinds of misconducts that are improper and have been strongly condemned by the Church. These were false shepherds who have not walked in the path of the Good Shepherd, but instead, allowed themselves to be tempted by the sins of this world.

Nonetheless, although the vast majority of the priests and bishops had been faithful and perhaps even more than just faithful, but also fully dedicated to the mission entrusted to them and their respective calling, they had certainly been affected by those who have been deviant and misguided, aberrant and irresponsible in the exercise of their ministry and in creating various scandals of the Church and the faith that affected the credibility and reputation of our most sacred priesthood and holy orders.

That is why today, all of us have to focus our attention and give our prayers for the benefit of all of our priests and bishops, our seminarians studying in various seminaries and preparation courses, as well as all the men called by God and are discerning the call to priesthood, all of them in their various stages of their vocation journey. And even more importantly, they also need our support, the support of the whole Church community. It is sad to note how in the reality of our Church life today, gossips and attacks against the priests are quite common in our community, and also various actions which showed our lack of appreciation and support for the important roles that our men in holy orders are doing.

As long as we hinder vocations within our own community, and even more so within our own families and relatives, we are not doing what we should be doing as Christians. I am sure that many among us will say that we must support vocations to priesthood and even participate actively in the prayers for vocations and other efforts, and yet, it was a sad reality when some of the same people wanted only others to be embracing their calling to the priesthood, and when one of their own family members want to follow this path, they oppose these with much hostility and bitterness.

This is therefore a reminder that we all need to unite our efforts together with sincere and genuine faith, and not with empty words and meaningless actions. In fact, although indeed we put a lot of focus today on the vocation to the holy orders and the sacred priesthood, that the priests and bishops carry on the same mission that has been entrusted to them from the time of the Apostles, but we must also not forget that all of us as Christians, by our common baptism, have also received the same mission and also partake in the same effort and work of the Church.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we cannot say and think that just because the priests, bishops and all in holy orders and priesthood had been charged and entrusted with those important works as shepherds then all the rest of us can then just slack and enjoy ourselves and our lives. All of us are also called to different vocations in life, and vocation does not just mean the vocation to priesthood, but rather it means the calling for each and every one of us to live our lives in the manner as Christian-like as possible in our own various occupations and sectors of life.

That is why while some had been called to the priesthood, many others had been called instead to a married life and existence, and to give glory to God and to be shining beacons of the light and truth of God in our world today. If each and every one of us play our part and do what we can to support one another, then definitely the paths that our priests and all those in holy orders had to go through will be significantly easier, since they will then be travelling through them and enduring them together with all the whole Church rather than by themselves.

And I have also mentioned how several ‘bad seeds’ among the clergy had caused great scandal and damage to the Church. But let us not then forget that if any one of the laity or indeed any members of the Church were to commit sin or lead a sinful life, then it will be scandalous and cause damage to the Church and the faithful as bad as the scandals and damages caused by those errant and unfaithful members of the clergy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore on this Vocation or Good Shepherd Sunday pray for one another, first of all of course for all of our priests and all in the holy orders, but then also pray for ourselves and for each other that we may truly be able to find meaning in our respective vocations in life, and for those among us who are still discerning the path to our vocations, may the Lord help us and guide us to our true vocations, whatever they may be, and allow us to give our best to fulfil our vocations as best as we are able to do so.

May the Lord, our Good Shepherd, continue to be with His Church and with all of us His people, that we may truly be more united in purpose, that in everything we do, we may contribute meaningfully and positively to the works and efforts of the Church and to God’s greater glory. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours and works, now and always. Amen.

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