Sunday, 25 April 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday, and Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the fourth Sunday in the season of Easter, and which is also known as the Good Shepherd Sunday or the Vocation Sunday. That is because on this Fourth Sunday of Easter the Gospel passage focused on the Lord as the Good Shepherd, referring Himself as that Good Shepherd Who leads the flock of the Lord, all of God’s people to the path of salvation, to gather them all into the embrace of God’s love.

Through today’s Scripture readings, we are reminded of the ever present and ever wonderful God’s love in our midst, the love which God has for each and every one of us. God has Himself become our Shepherd just as He is also our King. But through His identity as the Good Shepherd, it shows that not only He is symbolically represented as the One Who leads the way for us, but also that He cares for each one of us in a very personal way. He is not God that is distant or One Who did not know us.

On the contrary, He knows each and every one of us on a very deep and personal level, as He knows everything about us, through His omniscience. He Who created us also knows everything about us, often even things that we ourselves are perhaps not aware of. He knows us all like a true shepherd knows his sheep well, and a true and good shepherd truly knows them all and dedicates himself to all of the sheep, just as the sheep are also dedicated to the shepherd and stay by his side.

The Lord Jesus used this comparison to a shepherd for various reasons, one of which is that many Israelites at that time make their living as shepherds, herding herds of sheep or goats, or other animals. The Lord often made use of allegories and comparisons to the common trade of the people such as shepherding, fishing, farming and others, through His parables and teachings to help the people to understand better the context and the content of what He was delivering to them.

Then, what we cannot ignore is the fact that the beloved king of Israel, King David himself was a shepherd in his youth, who was recorded as having wrested with a great lion who was harming and threatening the flock that David was taking care of. David placed his life at stake in order to protect his sheep, and managed to win over the lion, saving his sheep. Thus, as the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus He would lay down His life, putting Himself between His sheep and the ‘lion’ of death.

That is in fact a revelation of what the Lord would be doing, in accepting humbly and willingly to be the Sacrifice, bearing His Cross and enduring all of the weight of our sins and the punishments due for all those sins. This is what St. Peter spoke of courageously and passionately before the assembly of the people and their elders, many of whom still refused to believe in Christ. As the Good Shepherd, He willingly received the punishments and die in our stead, that through Him and His selfless sacrifice, He could save us all from certain annihilation.

And lastly, a small detail which we may easily miss from today’s Gospel passage also showed what the Lord intended to do for us. As He spoke of the sheep of His flock, He said that there are also other sheep that are not of this fold, which refers to the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people. When the Lord spoke this teaching of the Good Shepherd, He was speaking to His disciples and followers, which were mainly and mostly Jewish in origin.

Therefore, this shows that the Lord wants all of His children, all the people He had created to be saved, gathered and rescued from the darkness of the world. He came not only for the descendants of the people of Israel but for all mankind. And that was why after He has risen from the dead, He gave the commandment to His disciples, commissioning them all to go forth and make disciples of all the peoples of all the nations. He has sent His disciples to seek out the lost sheep from the whole world and to gather them back in the Lord’s loving embrace.

This is what St. John spoke of in our second reading passage today from his Epistle, speaking of the great love which the Lord has for each and every one of us, as the children of God. We are so beloved and truly blessed as such, to be called God’s own children. This is in line with what the Lord had told us that as our Shepherd, loving each and every one of us as His sheep, we are truly precious and beloved, and as alluded in another one of the Lord’s parables, the one on the lost sheep, so beloved is the sheep that even if one were to be lost, the shepherd would go and seek out that one lost sheep until it can be found.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we celebrate this occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday, we are called first of all to remember the love which God, Our Good Shepherd, through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, has shown us, that He willingly suffer and die for us, and by His Incarnation in the flesh, He has also entered into our lives and touched us, just as the shepherds come to be physically present in the midst of his flock. He Himself has endeavoured to guide us and to be our focal point in life, that through Him, and that we may truly feel and know His presence among us.

Sheep can be owned and yet without a shepherd. In the same manner thus, the Lord could have chosen to remain distant and act through intermediaries as He had done in the time of the Old Testament. But this is not to be the case, as by being our Good Shepherd, being in our midst and truly present among us, He has restored the bond of unity that was once broken and lost by the disobedience of our ancestors. When our ancestors Adam and Eve were in the Gardens of Eden, God was in their midst and was with them. After their fall into sin, they were cast out and had to endure exile.

As I said, sheep can be owned and yet without a shepherd. The sins of mankind had led them all away from the Lord, indulging in sin and darkness of the world. They have become lost sheep that ran away from their shepherd, lost in the darkness of the world. Are they still owned by the Lord? We sinners, are we still belonging to the Lord? Of course we are, but without the Lord as our Shepherd and Guide, we are lost and we cannot find our way home, unless we seek our Shepherd and Guide, Who is the Lord Himself.

Fortunately, our Lord, the Good Shepherd is looking for us, and He tirelessly seeks us out just as the shepherd in His parable out looking for his sheep. That was why He had put so much effort, reaching out to us throughout time, and then through His Church, as mentioned earlier, how He sent out His disciples, commissioning them to reach out and make disciples of all the peoples of all the nations.

That is why today on this Sunday we are also celebrating the Vocation Sunday. The Lord has called His Apostles to continue His good works, and to be shepherds in the same mould as He is, as the Good Shepherd. They and their successors, the bishops right to the very present day, with all the priests are the shepherds of the faithful flock of the Lord, and they have been called and chosen, and also chose to respond to the call of the Lord, to lead the people of God faithfully and guide them to the Good Shepherd.

That is why this Sunday we ought to pray for all of our priests, who are our spiritual fathers and shepherds, all the bishops and the Pope, as well as those whom God had called into the religious life and priesthood. They have all given themselves to the Lord to be the shepherds following the example of the one true Good Shepherd. They have a lot of work to do and a lot of challenges to be overcome in their ministry and journey as shepherds of the Lord’s faithful, and they need our support and prayers.

We also pray for the many seminarians currently in seminary formation, during the various stages of their seminary life, all those whom God had called and had responded with the genuine desire to follow Him and to be shepherds like Him. And not forgetting also all those who aspire to the priesthood and are discerning on their vocation in life. We also pray for them and give them our support, that they may make the right decision, and commit themselves to whatever the Lord has called them into.

Lastly, for all of us who are members of the laity, it does not mean that we have no calling or vocation in life. God has blessed us with many graces and blessings, with many talents and abilities, and we are all called to contribute in whatever way we can, in our respective fields and capacity, as members of Christian families and communities, to be holy and faithful, to be exemplary in how we live our lives, so that by our own lives and examples, we may also be ‘shepherds’ to one another, and to be role models in inspiring many to follow the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord therefore on this Good Shepherd and Vocation Sunday, that each and every one of us as members and parts of the same Body of Christ, the Church, we may do our very best to contribute to the efforts of the Church, in fulfilling our calling to be the Lord’s faithful witnesses, in reaching out to many people of all the nations, in our everyday living so that not only we can encourage and inspire one another to live faithfully and stay close to the Lord’s ways, but we may also inspire others who have not yet known or accepted the Lord, that they too may accept the Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, as their Lord and Saviour.

May the Lord, our Good Shepherd, be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, His beloved flock and sheep, that all of us may remain in His love, and will continue to love Him, our most beloved Shepherd and Guide, at all times. May God bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 25 April 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday, and Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 11-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “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, 25 April 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday, and Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (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, 25 April 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday, and Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the help of humans. It is better to take refuge in YHVH 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 YHVH’s doing and we marvel at it.

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

Sunday, 25 April 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday, and Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (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 Nazorean.”

“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.”

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast day of the Evangelist, St. Mark, one of the Four Holy Evangelists, the writers of the Four Holy Gospels. St. Mark was a great disciple of Christ, and while he was not one of the Twelve Apostles, he was accorded the same honour and respect as the Apostles and he was also the founder of the very important See of Alexandria. Thus St. Mark was considered retroactively as the very first Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the five greatest centres of early Christendom.

And on this day we recall the great deeds of St. Mark in his efforts as one of the followers of Christ, not just in writing the Gospel according to St. Mark, but also in his evangelising and preaching ministry among many of the people, in Alexandria where he would establish the Church there, in Egypt as a whole and in other parts of the world such as in other parts of North Africa and also the Mediterranean, as he also accompanied St. Peter during some of his travels.

This relationship can be seen as part of our first reading today from the Epistle of St. Peter in which St. Peter referred to St. Mark as his ‘son’, alluding to the close Christian relationship that they had between them, and how St. Mark must have been an important companion to at least some of St. Peter’s travels and works. And in that same passage from St. Peter’s Epistle, the Apostle also reminded us all the faithful that we must be filled with virtues and humility, to serve God with all of our strength and to be vigilant against the temptations of evil.

In all of today’s readings therefore, including that of the Gospel in which the Lord Jesus after His resurrection described what His disciples would be sent out to do, and how the Lord would protect them from harm, all of us are reminded now therefore of this calling which God had called us into, the mission that He has shared with us and entrusted to us, which is the mission to save the whole world, to bring God’s salvation to them and to call them to embrace the fullness of His grace.

If God has called St. Mark and the Apostles, the many disciples He had called and chosen, then we must also realise that God has also called all of us, His faithful ones, to be His followers and to do what He desires of us to do in accordance with His will. And this means that we have been entrusted with the same mission which the Lord had given and entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, to go forth to the world and spread His Good News of salvation, and bring all souls to Him.

Are we willing and able to take up this mission that the Lord has entrusted to us? God wants us to follow Him and to contribute to the missions of the Church in whatever way we can. And the Lord had given us many gifts and abilities, talents and opportunities to follow Him and give all these for the sake of His greater glory. But many of us have not been using them properly as we should have, and many of us even abused and misused them for our own selfish purposes.

Today, all of us are called to discern carefully with our lives and our actions. We are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Mark the Evangelist and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, in their courageous and devout pursuit of service to God and His people. God has called all of us through our baptism, which we all share, to walk down the path of faith and to be His witnesses and workers, to be faithful to Him and to be inspirations for one another especially during these difficult times.

During these dark and challenging times, we are challenged to be bearers of hope and to be beacons of God’s wonderful light amidst the darkness that have been covering this world. We are now living through particularly difficult and dark times, and we see all around us all forms of sufferings and pains, conflicts and evil. Many among us have fallen into despair and gave in to our fears and uncertainties, our desires and selfishness, resulting in us acting and behaving in ways that often cause hurt and pain upon others.

Are we able to challenge ourselves to overcome these temptations of our desires and pride? Are we able to focus our attention instead on God and on His love and providence, rather than being obsessed and overcome by the pride and ego within us? Let us all spend some time to think about these matters, and let us all be inspired by the faith and the dedication of our holy predecessors that we, too, may follow in their footsteps and do our best to serve the Lord at all times. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours for our faith. May St. Mark intercede for us sinners too before our Lord and Master. Amen.

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 6-7, 16-17

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

The heavens proclaim Your wonders, o Lord; the assembly of the holy ones recalls Your faithfulness. Who in the skies can compare with the Lord; who of the heaven-born is like Him?

Blessed is the people who know Your praise. They walk in the light of Your face. They celebrate all day Your Name and Your protection lifts them up.

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Peter 5 : 5b-14

All of you must clothe yourself with humility in your dealings with one another, because God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God so that He will raise you up at the appointed time. Place all your worries on Him since He takes care of you.

Be sober and alert because your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Stand your ground, firm in your faith, knowing that our brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world, are confronting similar sufferings. God, the Giver of all grace, has called you to share in Christ’s eternal Glory and after you have suffered a little He will bring you to perfection : He will confirm, strengthen and establish You forever. Glory be to Him forever and ever. Amen.

I have had these few lines of encouragement written to you by Silvanus, our brother, whom I know to be trustworthy. For I wanted to remind you of the kindness of God really present in all this. Hold on to it. Greetings from the community in Babylon, gathered by God, and from my son, Mark. Greet one another with a friendly embrace. Peace to you all who are in Christ.

Monday, 25 April 2016 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast day of the Apostle and Evangelist St. Mark, one of the earliest Church fathers, and one of those whom the Twelve Apostles worked with as they went about their evangelisation works in preaching the Good News to the many communities in many cities across the known world a that time.

St. Mark was renowned for his evangelising works and for establishing the churches in the region of Babylon in Mesopotamia, in the place now known as Iraq, and he was also the very first Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the five most ancient Sees in Christendom. And from there, he helped to spread more of the Good News to the faithful in Egypt and beyond, spreading salvation to more and more souls.

And of course we knew St. Mark as one of the writers of the four Holy Gospels, which now we know as the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. Even though it was the shortest of all the four Gospels, but the Gospel of St. Mark was full of the testimonies of faith, relating to us all the important events in the life and works of Jesus our Lord, and from there, we gain knowledge about the Lord and can draw ever closer to His salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord had commanded all of His disciples at the end of His earthly ministry, as what we read from the Gospel according and written by St. Mark himself had told us. We heard how Jesus our Lord sent them all out to spread the Good News and His truth to all the ends of the earth, so that every souls may hear the words of God, turn away from their sins and be saved.

And without the good works and labours of the Apostles, this would have been impossible. And without the works of St. Mark and the other Evangelists, there would have been no account of what had happened during the time of Jesus, as a written proof and testimony of the truth and the Good News which God had shown to the world through Jesus. And without all these, the world would have remained forever in darkness, and many souls would have been lost.

Instead, through their hard works and commitments, they have brought many lost sheep back to their Shepherd, the Lord our God. They have turned many sinners from their sins and made them to reject the darkness and instead embrace the light. God blessed these people and made them worthy of Him once again, and they were welcomed into His Church, just like all of us who belong to the Church of God.

And have these works been completed, brethren? Not yet! In fact, there are still so much to be done, and the works of the Church have not yet been completed. We are the ones who are to take on the works of the Apostles and the faithful disciples of our Lord, for indeed, are we not also the disciples of our Lord? If the Lord had commanded His disciples to go forth and spread His Good News to the world, then should we not do the same as well?

We have been called to continue the works of the Apostles, and it is now in our hands that we should devote ourselves to the works of evangelisation and teaching others about God. But it is often easier said than done, as we should all realise that it is not easy to evangelise properly to others, and it is also not easy to be faithful disciples of our Lord, to teach the peoples about His ways.

There are always resistance and refusal from those who are unwilling to listen to us and to the word of God. And it falls to us to persevere through the challenges that will come our path as we proceed on through this way. But if we do not lift up our fingers and open our mouth, then those who refused to listen to God, would forever be blind and deaf to the Lord’s salvation, and they would be shut out from redemption for good.

We have our obligation to help our less fortunate brethren. And we should indeed be inspired by the examples of the holy Apostles and all the servants of God who have lived before us and did so much good to so many souls. Let us not be apathetic for the sake of our brethren, but instead, let us all commit ourselves anew to God, and commit ourselves ever more to the cause of His love. May God bless us all and keep us in His loving embrace. God bless us all. Amen.