Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd - Vocations Sunday) Year C. 12-05-2019 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Acts 13:14.43-52
Psalm: Psalm 100:1-3, 5
Second Reading: Revelation 7:9, 14-17
Gospel: John 10:27-30
Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter, a day we celebrate as Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocations Sunday. It is called Good Shepherd Sunday because every year the liturgy of the fourth Sunday of Easter offers us a passage from John 10, where Jesus clearly describes Himself as the “true Shepherd.” Why is the image of Shepherd so important to Christ? Who is a Shepherd? A Shepherd is one who leads his flock safely to pasture and fresh water. And Jesus is not just a Shepherd but the Good Shepherd who goes out of His way to protect His flock, even to the point of laying down His life out of love for His Sheep. This is an imagery that receives special sense from the figure of the Shepherd in the Old Testament. And God is the primary Shepherd of Israel in the Old Testament who takes His flock to green pastures so that they fear no evil, as captured in Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Christ as the Good Shepherd, calls His Sheep. And those who answer this call of following Him as His ‘Sheep’ are His disciples who are willing to follow Him even to the point of laying down their lives. We are His disciples of today whom He has called. That is why today is also called Vocation Sunday – the Sunday we celebrate the fact that God has called us in various ways to various ways of life. For me, He has called me to religious life to be His priest, He has called others to be religious brothers and sisters, and has also called many of you here to the married vocation of family life as husbands and wives. The passage tells us that even the initiative to follow Him does not come from ourselves. He calls, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (v.27). So our lives are entirely God’s enterprise and not ours. The important thing for us to do is to train our ears to be attentive to His voice when He speaks to us, to listen to His voice and do what He tells us to do. So we must each ask ourselves; as a priest, do I listen to His voice and do what He tells me? As a husband, or as a wife, do I listen to Him and do what He tells me anywhere I find myself? May be in the school as a teacher, or in the hospital as a doctor or nurse, as a trader in the market, a lawyer or anywhere I find myself working. Am I faithful to my call of following Jesus in my career or profession? To succeed in following Him to the end, we must be prepared to endure hardship and persecution just as we see in the lives of Paul and Barnabas in the first reading. The reading ends beautifully, that despite all the persecutions and humiliations they faced in following Christ, ‘the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit’. So the joy of the Lord was indeed their strength. This means that joy can come to us even in times of unfulfilled aspirations and injustice, when we are in tears, pain, hardship and persecution, as long as we believe and remain faithful to the Lord. This is why John’s vision in the second reading from the book of revelation sees the lamb becoming a shepherd that guides His flock to springs of living water. How can a lamb be a shepherd? This is how Jesus became our Shepherd, our guide, because He gave up His life for love of us, having been sacrificed just like a lamb might be. So we too, when we follow the Lord and are faced with persecution, we must persevere in faith and patiently to the end, and just as Jesus the lamb became the Shepherd, we too will in the end share in His victory which is eternal life. May the Lord help us to remain His people, the sheep of His flock who will always listen to His voice and obey Him at all times and in all situations. Today we also pray specially for vocations to the religious life and the priesthood, that the good Lord may raise up for us more and genuine vocations to the religious life and the priesthood, so that we will continue to have people who represent Him as Good Shepherds who will not starve the flock but will lead the flock entrusted to their charge into the green pastures of everlasting life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.