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.”

Sunday, 7 May 2017 : 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, the fourth one in the entire season of Easter, we always celebrate the one aspect of God which endears Him to us, that He is our Good Shepherd, the One Who guided the faithful people of God to Himself. Today the Scripture readings reflect precisely that fact, showing to us, how God loved the whole world and all mankind, who are His beloved ones.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why then God chose to be known as a Good Shepherd? Surely He can let Himself be known as a great King, or a Teacher, or as a great Being, with titles more befitting of His stature as God. There were indeed a lot of other professions far more worthy and reputable at that time, and even as it is today, a shepherd is not a particularly well-liked or well-respected work. Yet, it is truly a noble profession in reality.

But at the time of Jesus, as well as the time of the ancestors of the people of Israel, many of the people were shepherds, as there were also many farmers and fishermen. Jesus was using parables to teach the people about the truth of God, and in the same manner therefore, just as He had used the parables of the seeds being sown in comparing the kingdom of God and explaining it to them, therefore, Jesus also compared Himself to shepherds in how He were to carry out His mission in this world.

A shepherd’s main duty is to watch over his sheep, the animal which were herded by the shepherds, as they grazed the grasslands for food. The shepherd must ensure that the sheep are protected from harm, such as wolves which would hunt sheep that are not kept in the protection of its shepherd. And sometimes, the sheep may also be separated from the flock, and becomes lost. In that case, it is the shepherd’s duty to find out where the sheep is and return it back to the flock.

But not all shepherds cared for the sheep in that expected way. Many of the shepherds were paid in order to do their job, and they only did the job as far as it benefitted them. They did not truly care for the sheep, and they would be unwilling to go the extra mile for the sake of these sheep. They would want to do only what was expected of them based on what they received.

The moment that difficulty comes upon the sheep and the flock, these people were likely to be the ones who would leave the sheep behind, caring only for their own safety and not that of the sheep. Then, how is it that the Lord is our Good Shepherd? He is the Good Shepherd precisely because He truly loves us and cares about us, as how shepherds are supposed to be. He loves us all just as much as a shepherd cares about his sheep, and even more so.

He does not abandon us or ignore us when we are in trouble. And when we are led astray, as sheep in reality had often done, He is the One Who is concerned about us, and immediately, He will go forth and find a way in order to return us to His loving embrace. It is just how much He cared for us mankind, all of His beloved ones who had become astray in this world, because we have disobeyed Him and sinned against Him.

We have become lost from the Lord, not because the Lord had cast us out from His presence, but rather because we ourselves chose to be lost and be separated from God. Had the Lord not loved us or cared for us, He would just abandon us to our fated destruction, as the punishment and consequence for sin is death, and not just death but eternal death, the damnation of our souls for eternity in hell.

That is not what the Lord intended for us, brothers and sisters in Christ. He loves each and every one of us so much, that as shepherds do, He is willing to even lay down His life for our sake. When faced with trouble, a shepherd who cares for his sheep will shelter the sheep even if he himself were to face danger by doing so. Thus in the same way, the Lord had loved us, even to the point of giving Himself for our sake, that through His suffering and death, we may be spared the fate of our destruction.

And therefore, by that great love which He had for us, He had inspired all of us to love. He has taught us real love by His own examples. That is why as Christians all of us should love each other just as He had loved us first. And He has called upon those whom He had chosen to be His servants, those who dedicated themselves completely to serve the Lord and His people, namely our priests and bishops, all those who have entered into the holy orders.

Thus, today we celebrate Vocations Sunday, a day of remembrance and prayer for all those who have received God’s call in life and chose to follow Him and dedicate themselves completely to Him. They are our shepherds, that is our priests and bishops. They are the ones who take care of us as God’s chosen shepherds, that by imitating the same examples and actions that He as our Good Shepherd had done, all of us may grow ever stronger in God’s love.

But this is certainly not an easy vocation to be done. As the Lord Himself encountered dangers, challenges, opposition and much difficulty in His mission on earth, therefore, the same thing will also happen to those shepherds He had chosen, our priests and bishops. They must persevere through those challenges, the temptations to give up their vocations and good works, and without our support, it will be difficult for them to persevere through.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore support our priests, our bishops and all those who have decided to commit themselves completely to the service of God. Let us provide them help and support in whatever way we can give, and pray for their sake, that God will protect them and grant them strength to persevere through the challenges of life.

And for those of us who have heard the Lord calling us to serve Him, let us not close our hearts and minds to Him, and let us all not ignore His call. Let us instead pray that we may discern what is the path that God had called us to walk on, and follow Him in obedience, serving Him and our fellow brethren in whatever way, be it through our daily contributions in life, and to the most noble cause of all, by dedicating our whole lives entirely to God in answering His call to the sacred priesthood, if we choose to do so.

May God bless us all, and bless our Church, all the multitudes of our priests and bishops, all those in the holy orders, who have given their all for the Lord and His people. May God be with us all, be with His Church, now and forevermore. May our Good Shepherd continue to love us and help us to walk in His path. Amen.

Sunday, 7 May 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (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.”