Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)
Today, the 4th Sunday of Easter, is also called the Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also a World Day of Prayer for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life for the life of the Church.
The shepherd is given the care of the sheep. He makes sure that not one of them is lost or dies of starvation. He leads them to abundant pastures and leads them to shelter. He defends them from wild animals that may kill them. He must know his sheep individually, and establish if one is missing or hurt. Some reasons are the following:
- Sheep are dependent. Not only do they need a shepherd to provide nourishing food, clean water, and safe pasture, but they depend on someone else to help them when they are in a helpless state.
- Sheep are defenseless. They are easy marks for wild animals; they are harassed and helpless without a shepherd; they have short, weak, leg muscles, poor eyesight and dwarfed horns; they are very vulnerable.
- Sheep are directionless. A sheep moves with his head down, taking small steps, following his nose to tasty fodder; he moves from one blade to another; when lost, he can’t find his way home; once he is found, he has to be literally brought back to the fold.
- Sheep are easily distracted. A breeze kicking up leaves will so distract and frighten the sheep that a stampede ensues; what distract them most are parasites and insects that torment them (Adrian Rogers, The Lord is My Shepherd: Reflections on God’s Loving Care, 1990).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows us by name. He protects us from the enemy, the devil, through his teachings and inspiration. He preserves us from evil through the sacraments. He guides us through His Words and through the teachings of the Church. He feeds us and strengthens us especially through the sacrament of the Eucharist and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. He always makes sure that we are animated in Him through prayer, works of faith and mercy, and honest relationships. The reasons are:
- We are very dependent. We need God, the Church and others. We tend to work in a society without God or like to build a world without God. However, the Psalms tell us: “If the Lord does not build the house in vain do its builders labor. If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil” (127: 1).
- We are defenseless. We need the protection of God. We are very vulnerable to the devil’s attack. We are inclined to trust human leaders because we tend to like them even if they are not founded on God and on Christian principles. We are easily misled. But the Psalmist prays: “You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation” (89:26). St. Peter also tells us in the Acts of the Apostles: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (4:12).
- We are directionless. We like to wander. Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert, we wander away from the ways of God. We usually go in circles and lose our way. We complain. We do not listen. And Jesus tells us: “the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).
- We are easily distracted. We focus on the insignificant, and we make the same mistakes repeatedly. When we lose our focus on God, the devil easily takes over. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us: “Do not admire the achievements of sinners, trust the Lord and mind your own business; since it is a trifle in the eyes of the Lord, in a moment, suddenly to make the poor rich” (11:21). Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me” (Jn 14:1).
As we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us ask the Lord to give us pastors according to the Heart of the Good Shepherd. Let us also ask Him that we become obedient sheep, humble followers, like the obedient Son of the Father. Let us take part in the work of our parishes to educate and rear the youth in the life of the Church so that they will learn to love the work of our Savior. Let us earnestly pray that we learn to love the Church more so that vocation to the Priesthood and to the Religious Life will grow in our families.
Let us then thank our Father, as we celebrate the Eucharist, for giving us Jesus, our Good Shepherd, whom we receive in Holy Communion, and who always desires to be with us, in our families and in our relationships.
God bless you all.