Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” and takes that designation from the Gospel read on that day, usually from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. The image of a shepherd and his sheep is probably foreign to our experience, given the fact that we live in an urban environment. But the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep is grounded in trust, loyalty, and a willingness to follow wherever he leads them, wherever he goes. The shepherd supplies access to sufficient food and water, security from attacks by coyotes or wild dogs, and care when wounded or sick. The relationship between a shepherd and his sheep was so intimate that the sheep could recognize the shepherd by his smell and by the sound of his voice. Jesus himself, in the Gospel today, indicates this whenhesays,“ à and they follow me.”
The Lord is our shepherd indeed, our Good Shepherd. He supplies all that we need. He gives us life, food, protection from danger, love, hope for the future, and so much more. All we are asked to do is to recognize him, to hear his voice, and to follow him wherever he leads us. It takes an act of trust and faith to do so, yes, but again, as he is the “Good” Shepherd, we have no reason to fear following him or doing whatever he tells us.
This Sunday is also a day given to prayer for vocations to the priesthood, as well as the religious life (the consecrated life) and the diaconate. The Church is weathering some difficult times as we all know. The sins of some clergy and religious of the past have been laid bare and the Church as a whole has been wounded by it. Nonetheless, the Church, as we believe it to be, is holy, even if there is sinfulness in her members, because the Church is the very Body of Christ in the world. As the Body of Christ, the Church has to be holy in itself. Some have said that the Church is a community of sinners on its way to sainthood, or as Pope Francis calls it, a “field hospital” for sinners.
In order to do the work entrusted to it by the Lord, the Church has great need for priests, consecrated religious and deacons. These do not grow on trees, nor do they drop down magically from the heavens. The seed of a religious vocation is sown in family life, in devout Catholic living, in a simple invitation to a young person who seems so disposed to consider life as a priest, consecrated religious, or deacon. Pray for more vocations, but also keep your
eyes and ears open looking for signs of a possible vocation in young (or not so young) people you may know.
On this Mother’s Day, we pray for all mothers and grandmothers, be they living or deceased. May we not forget, too, those women who have been like mothers to us at one time or another in life, those who have helped us and inspired us in their roles as teachers, day care workers, nurses, doctors, counselors, and more. May God bless them all!