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.”

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.

Sunday, 3 May 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Vocation Sunday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 1-10

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But the shepherd of the sheep enters by the gate. The keeper opens the gate to him and the sheep hear his voice; he calls each of his sheep by name and leads them out.”

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but rather they will run away from him, because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this comparison, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.

So Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, I am the Gate of the sheep. All who came were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them. I am the Gate. Whoever enters through Me will be saved; he will go in and out freely and find food. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.”

Sunday, 3 May 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Vocation Sunday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 2 : 20b-25

But if you endure punishment when you have done well, that is a grace before God. This is your calling : remember Christ Who suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you may follow in His way. He did no wrong and there was no deceit in His mouth. He did not return insult for insult and, when suffering, He did not curse but put Himself in the hands of God Who judges justly.

He went to the cross bearing our sins on His own Body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live an upright life. For by His wounds you have been healed. You were like stray sheep, but you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 3 May 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Vocation Sunday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 2 : 14a, 36-41

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and, with a loud voice, addressed them, “Let Israel then know for sure that God has made Lord and Christ this Jesus Whom you crucified.” When they heard this, they were deeply troubled. And they asked Peter and the other Apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?”

Peter answered : “Each of you must repent and be baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise of God was made to you and your children, and to all those from afar whom our God may call.”

With many other words Peter gave the message and appealed to them saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who accepted his word were baptised; some three thousand persons were added to their numbers that day.