This is the fourth week of Easter. The fourth Sunday of Easter is commonly known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” and is also known as The World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The Church reminds us to pray and to encourage vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life. The readings today use the image of God as a Shepherd and His people as His flock to describe the unique relationship of God with His Chosen people and of Christ with His Church.
In today’s first reading Peter reminds the crowd that the good deed—the healing of the crippled—was done by the power of Jesus, the risen Lord whom the Jews crucified and whom God raised up on the third day. Peter further asserts unequivocally before the Jewish assembly that there is no salvation except through Christ, the Good Shepherd. Through Jesus, the rejected stone who became the cornerstone, God brings about healing, restoration, and eternal salvation.
In the second reading, John discusses the love of God and the people’s identity as the children of God. John tells them that they should be attentive to the reality of God’s love which they have experienced themselves. God’s love, already revealed through creation and history, became human flesh in Jesus, God’s own Son. Through Him and in Him, God has bestowed love so that believers can be called the Children of God. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus makes all things new.
The first part of today’s Gospel contrasts Jesus, the true Shepherd, with fake shepherds who work for money. Jesus warns against false shepherds and false teachers in the Church. Jesus’ love and concern for each of us must be accepted with trust and serenity because He alone is our Shepherd; no one else deserves our undivided commitment. As a true Shepherd, Jesus leads His sheep, giving them the food and protection that only He, the Good Shepherd, can provide. He protects us and leads us to true happiness. The second part of the parable describes the shepherd’s relationship with his sheep, “I know mine and mine know me.” Jesus compares this to His relationship with His Heavenly Father which is intimate and enduring. In the last part of the reading Jesus talks about other sheep that do not belong to the fold. Jesus tells us that He will lead them too, and they will hear his voice. All will be brought into one flock under the guidance of one Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We need to pray and work for the unity and oneness that Jesus discusses in the Gospel so that all may have the fullness of life in Jesus the Good Shepherd.
We are all called to be shepherds of people who are entrusted to our care. It is not an easy task. How do we shepherd the people in our care? We do so by loving them, praying for them, spending our time, talents and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. In this sense, we all, especially parents, must be mindful of our duties toward our children, setting a good example for them. Above all, parents should pray for their children and infuse them with solid Christian values and moral principles. We all need to be good role models to others like the holy men and women whom we admire and appreciate. Saint Theresa of Calcutta is a perfect example of a good shepherd. The day after she died, a prominent newspaper in India published an article entitled: “Mother Theresa lived like her Master, the Good Shepherd, and she died like her Master, the Good Shepherd.” She is a perfect example of being a good shepherd, as she loved and cared for the people under her care, especially the poor.
We also celebrate “The World Day of Prayer for Vocations” and we are invited to pray for vocations to priestly and religious life, I request that you pray for the seminarians from our diocese especially Josue Jimenez who was with us this last summer. I especially ask you to pray for three of our parishioners: Michael Moore, who is in the permanent diaconate program, and will be ordained as deacon by June 2019; Rachel Smith who is studying to be a religious sister for the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles and Chris Braden, who is with the Miles Christi Religious Order, and is completing his second year of seminary study. As we celebrate “The World Day of Prayer for Vocations” let us remember our responsibility of fostering vocations, good and holy men and women to shepherd God’s people.