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, 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.”