“Each year on this fourth Sunday of Easter we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. It is a time for us to reflect upon first of all Christ as the Good Shepherd and that image of Christ as the shepherd I think is an important one because it has to do with how Christ referred to himself as being the shepherd, but I sometimes think about these pictures of Christ the Good Shepherd, you know where he’s in immaculate clothing, his hair is all parted and combed so nicely, he’s holding this nice little lamb in his arm that’s snow white…that isn’t the way it was. Shepherds lived out in the fields. Shepherds were rough and ready individuals. Shepherds were not even considered clean because they lived so close to the sheep that they were rejected that they were in a sense looked down upon, but they were committed to their flock and that was the message that Jesus wanted to get across that he was rough and ready not some mild and meek individual, but rather someone who was willing as he said in the Gospel today to lay down his own life for his flock which he did upon the cross and such a tremendous message of love and commitment that is shown there unlike the hired hands who run off when there’s a threat to the safety of the sheep and so Jesus certainly laid down his life and on this Good Shepherd Sunday we are reminded of that and that Christ continues to be the shepherd for us. Christ continues to try to guide us, to lead us, to invite us to listen to his voice that we may come as one flock into the eternal life that is promised in that second reading today.
Jesus talks about laying down his life for the flock and certainly that means to give his life as he died upon the cross, but there’s other ways in which we lay down our life and that is by living for others. If we live for another person rather than just for ourself, that is laying down our life and all of us are invited to live in that spirit of laying down our life in daily service in caring for others in showing love and compassion forgiveness and peace. Those are the qualities that are so important for us. I once read that a sign of an immature person is someone who wants to die for a cause. The sign of a mature person is one who is willing to humbly live for one and how important it is that we live humbly for others that that is the invitation of Christ the Good Shepherd and on this day we celebrate the world day of prayer for vocations, vocations to sacramental marriage to committed single life and maybe in a special way to priesthood and religious life, but it is a day for us to recognize our vocation the ones that each and every one of us has within our life and it’s a vocation most of all to grow in holiness of life and that growth in holiness takes place as we follow the example of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life as we seek to lay down our life each day in love and service and we pray for perseverance for all of us in vocations, but we also pray for our young people today that they may be responsive to that call of Christ to truly enter into sacramental marriage to enter into a single life that is one of service that they listen to the voice of Christ perhaps calling them to priesthood or religious life and so it is a world day of prayer for vocations, but that fact of having one day is certainly not sufficient, but rather we are continually called to renew our own commitment personally to our vocation as well as to pray for others who are yet to discover what is God’s call within their life and one of the things that is done here in our own vocations ministry is the 31 Club that was explained before Mass today. It’s just taking one day a month in which you would pray first of all in gratitude for your vocation and a recommitment for your vocation, but also to pray for an increase of vocations and in a very special way vocations in church service and church ministry and so we invite you to make that personal commitment of prayer for vocations and most of all though to think in terms of gratitude for the ways in which God is working through you the ways in which you are growing in holiness as you live out your own call in vocation and how we can continue to support each other and challenge each other and how we can better invite our young people.
It’s kind of interesting, the majority of our seminarians have indicated that really no one ever invited them to become a priest. One of the good things about marriage, you always have somebody that does an invitation, don’t you? There’s an invitation there, ‘will you marry me?’ Whereas for vocation to priesthood religious life there’s nobody there on the other side except Jesus maybe within their heart, but Jesus always relies upon human voices to issue the invitation to say, ‘Have you ever thought about a vocation to become a sister, to become a brother, to become a priest?’ So we as a community are called to be the voice of Christ inviting others into a deeper relationship and a deeper life of service as priests brothers and sisters and so today we celebrate Good Shepherd. We thank Jesus, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us. We also thank him for the grace he gives us that we may lay down our life in loving service to others each day.”