Sunday, 8 May 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in the season of Easter marks the occasion of Good Shepherd Sunday, or also known as the Vocation Sunday. This Sunday is called as such because the Gospel reading was taken from the Gospel of St. John, in which the Lord referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd and we, the people of God as His sheep and flock. Through Him, our Good Shepherd, the Lord has called on all of us to follow Him and return to Him, to no longer be lost and separated from Him, but be reunited with Him and becoming once again part of that one flock of God in His Church.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Acts of the Apostles the works of two of the Apostles, St. Paul and St. Barnabas who were travelling to Antioch in Pisidia in Asia Minor, where they preached about the Lord and His truth in the synagogue. The two Apostles spoke to a large gathering of both Jewish people and the non-Jewish people, the Gentiles. But their efforts in attracting so many people especially the Gentiles caused some among the Jews to be jealous and hostile to their popularity. It was likely that those Jewish people mentioned had belonged to the Pharisees or at least those who were sympathetic of the position of the Pharisees and their opposition against Jesus.

Hence, as we heard, while the Apostles managed to gain great support and following even from among the Gentiles, who were happy to hear the Good News presented to them, but those people who refused to believe in them were offended and angry at the popularity that St. Paul and St. Barnabas managed to get, and considered them as a threat to the way of life and the beliefs of those who held and clung on to the traditions of the Jewish customs as promoted and preserved by the Pharisees and the elders. As such, they did whatever they could to oppose the two Apostles, persecuting them and evicting them from their region.

Yet, the Apostles, St. Paul, St. Barnabas and the Twelve Apostles led by St. Peter all continued to labour hard for the Lord and His Church, going forth to many places and spreading the Good News passed onto them as the shepherds of the Lord’s flock, the servants of the one and true Good Shepherd of all. They proclaimed the Lord’s truth to all the people, to the Jewish people and the Gentiles alike, and although they encountered many opposition and rejection from those who refused to believe in God and His truth, persecuted and having to endure arrest, prison, torture and even martyrdom, they continued to proclaim the word of God faithfully and many others did flock to follow the Lord through them.

In our second reading today, we heard of the vision of St. John the Apostle from the Book of Revelations that he wrote, detailing what he had seen in the series of visions he received at the island of Patmos during his exile there. St. John saw the vision of innumerable holy men and women from across all time and places, all gathered together to proclaim the Lord and glorify Him, to praise Him on His Throne, as St. John saw Him, the victorious Lamb of God, Who has won the ultimate victory over sin, evil and death, and by His sacrifice on the Cross, He has gathered all of us as our Good Shepherd, leading us all to the path towards eternal life.

What victory is it about, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the great triumph that God had won for us over the forces of evil and sin. We have been corrupted by sin ever since the beginning of time, when we succumbed to the temptations of the devil and allowed sin to enter into our hearts. Because of that, we have been scattered throughout the world and fell into darkness, becoming lost from the Lord, our Good Shepherd. But what is important is that, God’s love for us far surpasses His disgust and anger for our sins. He loves us all beyond anything else, and He created us in the first place because He loved us all. If He did not love us at all, He would not even have created us or given us a chance at all.

Therefore, in coming upon us Himself, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Word Incarnate, the Lord came to us to show just how much He loved us all and how precious we truly are to Him. The Lord has come to gather us all from the far ends of the world, and to lead us all back to Himself just as He has long promised to us. And to this end, He has established His Church, and called us all to be part of that one flock that He has gathered together in His Name, and entrusted all of us to those whom He had called and dedicated to be shepherds modelled after Himself, the Good Shepherd.

St. Paul, St. Barnabas, the other Apostles and many other holy men and women of God, the saints all showed us what they had done in following the examples set by the Good Shepherd in helping many more lost souls, the lost sheep of the Lord to return to Him. Just as the Lord Himself also said in another occasion, that the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, hence, He Who laid down His own life for our salvation inspired His own servants, like St. Paul, St. Barnabas and many more to be willing to lay down their lives and to suffer for the sake of the Lord and His people. Through their courage and determination, countless souls had been saved, and many had been brought to reconciliation with God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate this Good Shepherd Sunday, what we have just discussed earlier highlighted why we also mark the occasion of Vocation Sunday today. That is because while we remember the Lord, our Good Shepherd in all that He had done for us, we must not forget that He has called all of us to follow Him, and for all of us to embrace our respective calling in life and dedicate ourselves, in whichever capacity and ability we are able to commit, to embrace a good Christian vocation in life. And we must not think or misunderstand that vocation means only vocations to priesthood only.

That is because there are many vocations for us as Christians in the Church. Most prominent indeed are those whom God had called to serve Him wholeheartedly and completely as those who embrace the call to the priesthood as well as religious life. They have been called to serve the Lord and His people, following in the footsteps of the Apostles, in continuing their works of evangelisation and in ministering to the people of God. However, this does not mean that all the others who have not followed this same path then do not have any role to play in the works of the evangelisation or as part in the Lord’s mission entrusted to His Church.

On the contrary, as members of God’s Church, each and every one of us have very important roles to play, and the laity have immense role that all of them have to play and take part in faithfully and with commitment in order to make sure that the Church’s efforts and its missions will be successful. The responsibility for evangelisation and spreading the Good News of God is not that of the priests and religious, or missionaries alone. All the faithful people of God share in the same mission, inspired by the Good Shepherd, Our Lord’s own examples, His love and dedication for us, His lost sheep, in gathering all of them to His loving embrace.

That is why, all of us have to live our lives worthily of the Lord and doing whatever we can to contribute to the mission of the Church in reaching out to the lost sheep of the Lord’s flock, all those who have not yet known the Lord and His salvation, and all those who have fallen astray in the path towards God. Each one of us can help one another, and even the priests and missionaries need the constant support from every members of the Church so that they may be able to do their works effectively. It is indeed not easy to be priests, especially in our world today, and we need to support the priests, our shepherds, that they may be inspired to follow the path of their predecessors, the Apostles and their successors, and the Lord Himself, the Good Shepherd.

That is why all of us have to pray for our priests, for more vocations to the priesthood. But at the same time, should any of us are called to the priesthood, then we should not ignore that call either. A most common thing in the Church is that we do not mind if others are called to the priesthood, but when some parents encounter the fact that it is their own children who are called to the priesthood, or religious life, or other vocations that are not according to what they wanted, they became defensive or even putting objections to that vocation or desire of their own children. It is truly hypocritical if we want others to embrace their vocation but not those in our own families. Yet, sadly, this is one of the main reason why it is truly difficult for some to embrace their vocation to priesthood and religious life.

Now, at the same time, we must also not forget to reflect on our vocation as married people, as those who have been called to a life in matrimonial bond and in growing up faithful Christian families. As mentioned, that is also a very important vocation, and one that cannot be ignored. For faithful and committed Christian families are truly the bedrock of the Church, and the first places where our children will learn about the faith. If our Christian families are not founded upon firm faith and the strong desire to serve and follow God, then sooner or later, not only that we may lose a lot of our children to indifference to their faith, to apostasy and more, but the whole entire Church community will also be negatively affected.

There are also of course those among us called to other purposes in life, even those who are called to remain single and devote themselves to the Lord. Many of them are not even members of any religious orders, but they dedicated themselves to a particular purpose or some missions to do things for the good of others, and to advance the cause of the Lord, to proclaim His Good News and more. Those are also wonderful vocations that each one of us, should we be called, have to embrace as well. We are all called to different purposes in life and we really should do our best to follow Him, and commit ourselves to God as best as we can.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Good Shepherd and Vocation Sunday, let us ask the Lord, our Good Shepherd, to guide us all and to give us the strength and courage so that we all can be faithful shepherds, role models and examples for one another in faith. Let our actions, words and deeds be inspiration at all times, and let more and more people come to believe in God through us. May each one of us devote more of our time and effort to follow our vocations in life, and may God, our loving Good Shepherd be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 8 May 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 27-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them; they follow Me and I give them eternal life. They shall never perish, and no one will ever steal them from Me. What My Father has given Me, is greater than all things else. To snatch it out of the Father’s hand, no one is able! I and the Father are One.”

Sunday, 8 May 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 9, 14b-17

After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution; they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb. This is why they stand before the Throne of God, and serve Him, day and night, in His sanctuary.”

“He, Who sits on the throne, will spread His tent over them. Never again, will they suffer hunger or thirst, or be burnt by the sun, or any scorching wind. For the Lamb, near the Throne, will be their Shepherd, and He will bring them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away their tears.”

Sunday, 8 May 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Sunday, 8 May 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 14, 43-52

Paul and his companions went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After that, when the assembly broke up, many Jews and devout God-fearing people followed them, and to these, they spoke, urging them to hold fast to the grace of God.

The following Sabbath almost the entire city gathered to listen to Paul, who spoke a fairly long time about the Lord. But the presence of such a crowd made the Jews jealous. So they began to oppose, with insults, whatever Paul said.

Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out firmly, saying, “It was necessary, that God’s word be first proclaimed to you, but since you now reject it, and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we turn to non-Jewish people. For thus we were commanded by the Lord : I have set you as a light to the pagan nations, so that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Those who were not Jews rejoiced, when they heard this, and praised the message of the Lord; and all those, destined for everlasting life, believed in it. Thus the word spread, throughout the whole region. Some of the Jews, however, incited God-fearing women of the upper class, and the leading men of the city, as well, and stirred up an intense persecution against Paul and Barnabas.

Finally, they had them expelled from their region. The Apostles shook the dust from their feet, in protest against this people, and went to Iconium, leaving; the disciples, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

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.”