Sunday, April 26, 2015

Good Shepherd Sunday

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
—John 10:11

This Sunday, which is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations, is a time set aside each year to pray, in a special way, for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, permanent diaconate, and consecrated life. The Church needs ministers who are willing to give their lives in service and prayer for the sake of the Gospel.
The Good Shepherd from
the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome (250-300)

Today, as I offer my own prayers for those who are discerning God’s call, I was especially struck by the first line of the Gospel of this Sunday’s Mass (quoted above). This sentiment is echoed in Pope Francis’ Message for the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations: “To offer one’s life in mission is possible only if we are able to leave ourselves behind… At the root of every Christian vocation we find this basic movement, which is part of the experience of faith. Belief means transcending ourselves, leaving behind our comfort and the inflexibility of our ego in order to center our life in Jesus Christ.” 

Although we most often think of priests when we think of “shepherds,” we have to keep in mind that the Good Shepherd is the model for all those who have a special responsibility to care for others. The Church needs priests, deacons, and religious who are willing to set aside their own comfort, agendas, and security for the sake of those entrusted to their care. And so, besides praying for an “increase in vocations,” we should pray just as much that those who are being called to the priesthood, the diaconate, and religious life be graced with charity, courage, and prudence so that they can truly reflect the self-giving love of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.  

This kind of commitment is costly and requires faith and fortitude. Only this past week, a Missionary Sister of the Precious Blood, Sister Stefanie Tiefenbacher, was gang raped and murdered in South Africa. For more than sixty years, she had served the poor, especially children, in her community’s mission in Ixopo. This is not the first incident of this kind this year. May God reward her for her faithful service, bless and comfort her religious and mission communities, and grant conversion and forgiveness to her murderers. My hope is that her life and witness will inspire many others to continue her work.  

Today and throughout this week, also remember in prayer those priests, deacons, and religious who are struggling to live their vocational commitment. Ask God to grant them the gift of perseverance.

Each of us, regardless of our own state of life, has a responsibility to pray for and promote vocations. The priests, deacons, and religious the Church so desperately needs are in our communities, parishes, and families. We have an obligation to call these individuals forth to serve and to support their service.

A prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Easter +
Almighty ever-living God,
lead us to a share in the joys of heaven,
so that the humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone before.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)


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