Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we celebrate together the occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday, known as such because of the Gospel passage of the Fourth Sunday of Easter that is about the Lord as the Good Shepherd, as well as the occasion of the Vocation Sunday, where all of us pray together for the vocations to the priesthood and life dedicated to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is a very important one to us all in the Church, as all those who are priests and consecrated to God are the lifeblood of the Church, and an important part of God’s Church together with the laity. Without these courageous men who listened to God’s call and answered Him with concrete action, there would have been no Church to speak of today.

Why is that so? That is because they are called to follow in the example of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, Who loves us all His people. It was God’s love for us that had allowed His Church to exist and flourish, and it was God’s love, that He did not destroy us outright for our sins, but instead He gave us the opportunity to be forgiven and to be reconciled with Him.

All of the readings from the Scripture today speak of God’s love for us, which is great and its extent unimaginable. And He has often alluded to us, the love of a shepherd for the sheep, especially that of a good shepherd, the shepherd of the flock, and not of the hired men. The hired men would only care for the sheep for the money they received, and as soon as they had to do something beyond their obligations, or when they had to face danger to protect the sheep, they would flee.

On the other hand, the good shepherd would do all he could to protect the sheep, to go all the way to search for a lost sheep and to do all he could to make sure that the sheep is safe and sound. And as the Lord Himself mentioned, that a true and good shepherd knows all of his sheep, and the sheep know him. And that is exactly Who the Lord is, our Good Shepherd Who loves each and every one of us.

Obviously God loves each and every one of us, for it was He Who created us from nothingness and gave us life, for each one of us. God did not create us without a good reason, and that reason is that He wants to share with us His perfect love. God has no need for our love, as He Himself is already perfect in love and having perfect love in His Trinity, between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, united in perfect love to each other.

Yet, He wants to love us, and to show His care upon us, to all He has created, and foremost of all, mankind, whom He created in His very own image, and who are the pinnacle of His creation. God is ever loving upon us, whom He considers to be His own children. And why is that so? That is all the more because Christ, His begotten Son, has willingly taken up our existence as Man, that just as He is Son, we too are sons and daughters of God.

The relationship between sheep and shepherd is a very close one, like that of parent and child. Hence, God as our Good Shepherd is yet another reinforcement of the fact of just how great His love for us is. He is our loving Father, our Guardian, our Protector, our Shepherd and our King. And because of that, He is always concerned about us, and worried about us, just as shepherds are always wary of the threats facing their sheep.

And like all sheep, which sometimes like to wander off on its own, all of us, God’s sheep also like to wander off the path that God has shown us. We have disobeyed the commands and laws that God has given us, and preferring to follow our own path. This is where the devil tries to come in, to prey upon us, just like wolves preying on sheep. And he is always ready to snatch those who are lost and separated from the rest of the flock, leading us to our downfall.

That is why the devil is never at rest, constantly trying to get his hands on us, especially those who are most vulnerable to his tricks and lies, to the temptations and persuasions with which he had swayed countless souls from their way to heaven, into the path leading towards hell. The devil is ever active, sending out his agents, demons and evil spirits, to harass us and to drag us into the depths of hell with them.

Of course, the Lord in all these does not stay silent or inactive. If we think that He has done nothing to help us, then let us remind ourselves by looking upon He Who was crucified on the cross. He, our Good Shepherd, above all else, laid down His very life for us, enduring the worst sufferings and pains, far beyond what we mankind can ever imagine or comprehend, so that by those sufferings and by His death, He could save us from a certainty of death and damnation.

He has become the fulfilment of His own words, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” A good and committed shepherd would do everything in order to protect his sheep, and if necessary, they might even put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the sheep from danger. That is what a true and good shepherd would have done, as he loved the sheep as much as himself.

God, Who is our Good Shepherd, has done exactly the same thing, and as all of us are His beloved sheep, who have been scattered and cast away from Him because of our sins, He came between us and damnation itself, by accepting the punishment for our sins, that though He died, all of us may live because of His ultimate sacrifice. And that is not the end, but instead, a new beginning, because He conquered death and sin, by His glorious resurrection.

Now Christ, our Good Shepherd and Risen Lord has shown us the way forward, and He appointed His disciples, from the Apostles to their successors, all the way to the priests and bishops of our present time, to be shepherds of His flock. And these shepherds model themselves after the Good Shepherd Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of them have worked tirelessly, all throughout the ages, to serve the people of God and the Church, caring for the needs of God’s people, the flock entrusted under their care, as shepherds.

And it is important that today, we remember to pray for our priests and bishops, all those who are our shepherds, that they will remain strong in their faith, conviction and commitment to the vocation into which God had called and confirmed them. And not just that, we should also help them and take part in the activities of the Church together, as our shepherds cannot do their works alone. And there are many threats facing them that we need to be aware of.

Just as the Lord, our Good Shepherd, gave His life to protect us and to bring salvation unto us, many of our priests and bishops had to devote themselves, even to the point of suffering and laying down their lives as martyrs, just so that more and more souls of man may be saved from eternal damnation. That is why we need to pray for them and assist them in whatever way we can.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, Satan knows that if he wants to gain access at us, God’s flock, he must first strike at the shepherds. That was exactly what he has been trying to do, and what he will continue to do. Assaults after assaults, temptations after temptations await our priests and bishops, all those whom God had called and chosen. Now, let us all help them, and help each other, united as one Church, that we strive and persevere through these challenges together.

May the Lord continue to watch over His servants, especially those whom He had made shepherds over His people, our priests and bishops. And may He call even more young men who are destined for a life of service and shepherdhood, that they may discern well and take up the cross, to continue the good works which the Apostles and their successors had done, in shepherding God’s flock and finding their way to Him. May God be with all of our priests, our bishops, and with all of us. Amen.

Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (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, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (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, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (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, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (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, 21 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that as a disciple and follower of the Lord, we have a lot of responsibilities in our lives as well as work to do, in facing occasions when we need to stand up for our faith facing the challenges and obstacles that will be on our path if we remain faithful to God.

In the first reading today, we heard of how the Apostle St. Peter travelled from place to place, preaching about the Lord and performing many miraculous works, healing people who were sick, infirm and disabled. Eventually, he also performed what many people thought was impossible, that is to return someone who had died, back into life. Yet, that had exactly happened, just as the Lord Jesus Himself brought Lazarus back to life.

In the Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding what they have heard Him teaching the people, on Himself as the Living Bread, the Bread of Life, by the giving of His own Body and by the outpouring of His own Blood, which in fact turned off many people who could not believe that someone would give His own Body and His own Blood for others to eat and drink.

They could not understand in their simple minds about the revelation which God had brought to them. To them it is inconceivable and impossible for a man to do as what the Lord Jesus had said, and they could not bring themselves to believe it. But that is because they were thinking in worldly terms and not in terms of God. Yet, that is the reality and the truth, just as a man and a girl who had died, could return to life once again, as the Lord Jesus and His Apostle, St. Peter had done.

As Christians, all of us stand by the Lord’s ways, which often may seem to be strange or even incomprehensible to those who live by the ways of the world. And as such, there may be occasions when we will be ridiculed, rejected and shunned by others, even by those who are close to us, because we stand by firmly to our faith in God and not following what is common to those in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, let us ask ourselves, are we able to stand by the Lord faithfully in the same manner as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done? Are we able to commit ourselves in the same way as they had? Many people refused to believe what the Lord had said, left Him behind and went on their own way. But the disciples remained firm in their conviction and faith, despite of all that they have just experienced and heard.

What all of these are telling us, is the fact that as Christians, all of us will be tempted from all sides and sources, to abandon the Lord and to walk on their own path. But we have to persevere through all of these challenges and temptations, for should we fail to do so, what is at stake is nothing less than the fate of our eternal soul. And it is through Christ alone that we can reach out to the Lord and be saved.

Let us all look at the faith that our holy predecessor, St. Anselm of Canterbury had once shown, which became inspiration for many others. On this day, as we celebrate his feast and remember his actions, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who faithfully served his flock and cared for the needs of all those who have been entrusted to him. He even resisted the secular authorities, of kings and nobles who tried to intrude into the governance of the Church.

For that, he had to endure opposition, persecution and exile. He had to endure painful suffering and opposition from the powerful lords and especially the king of England who wanted to make the Church in his domains subservient to his rule and whim. He struggled faithfully and remained firm in his faith, not giving in to the temptations or to the persuasions. In the end, the truth triumphed and St. Anselm shared in the glory of God’s Apostles and His saints.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all walk in the same path as walked by St. Anselm, in his faith and devotion, in his commitment and outreach, all the effort he had put in place to serve the people of God with faith. Let us all seek to be faithful at all times, and devote ourselves, our time and attention to be with God, to love Him with all of our strength, as we should, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 21 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 60-69

At that time, after the Jews heard Jesus, many of His followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus was aware that His disciples were murmuring about this, and so He said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him. So He added, “As I have told you, no one can come to Me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed Him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”