My dear brothers and sisters,
Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter; this Sunday, we mark not only Good Shepherd Sunday, but also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations—at a moment when the need is greater than ever for more to answer the call to serve and be shepherds.
When celebrating the feast of Christ, we contemplate our Good Shepherd who willingly laid down his life for his flock. We celebrate Our Shepherd because he loves and cares for us in all circumstances. He is willing to lead all who follow and obey him to the spring of eternal life.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his followers, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life.” This shepherd-sheep relationship with God presented in the Gospel reveals two respective points of God’s responsibility to his people and that of the people to their God. It is the responsibility of God as a shepherd to know his people individually and shepherd them to enjoy life through here to eternity. As a shepherd who takes care of his flock, God has absolute knowledge of his people.
The first reading narrates the events of how the apostles continue to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. One significant point to note today is that they have moved a step further. They have brought the good news to the gentiles who accepted it with joyful hearts. This shows that Christ came for the salvation of all his flock. As the Good Shepherd of all nations, He offers us salvation and protection through the good news. This is because, it is His wish that all be saved.
In the second reading, through the vision of St. John God assures us that Christ our Good Shepherd is willing to welcome and save all his children. Hence, St. John tells us: “I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe, and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb…” Through His son Jesus Christ, God is ready to lead us to the spring of eternal salvation. His mercy, love and salvation do not discriminate, and His kingdom is open to all his flock. This is especially to all who humbly and cheerfully embrace Him. God’s salvation is like a free flowing spring. However, only those who are faithful to Him and have washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb could draw life from this spring of life.
As we mark Good Shepherd Sunday let us pray for all vocations—and the vocation each of us has as a Catholic Christian and a person of faith. Let us reflect on what our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has shown us and taught us—and the example he has given us. Pope Francis made that point in his message for today, describing vocation as a kind of “exodus.”: “Never be afraid to go out from yourselves and begin the journey!,” he wrote. “The Gospel is the message which brings freedom to our lives; it transforms them and makes them all the more beautiful. How wonderful it is to be surprised by God’s call, to embrace his word, and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in adoration of the divine mystery and in generous service to our neighbours! Your life will become richer and more joyful each day!”
So as the sheep of God’s flock, let us heed the daily call of Christ our Good Shepherd who says: “Behold I stand at the door of your heart and knock. If you open the door I will come in…” (Rev 3, 20). Yes, Jesus the Good Shepherd of all nations stands there patiently and endlessly knocking. He wants to lead us. So let us not walk away from Him. The psalmist advices us thus: “Oh that today you will listen to his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 95, 8). May the Almighty God grant us the wisdom and grace to continue to respond obediently to Christ our Good Shepherd. Amen
Fr. Joseph Pham Quoc Van, O.P.