FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A.
30th April 2023
Acts 2:14,36-41; 1Peter 2:20-25; John 10: 1-10.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is usually known as the Good Shepherd Sunday. The church designates this Sunday to pray for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Jesus Christ referred to himself as the Good Shepherd when he said; I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep and my own know me. Priestly and religious vocation is a gift from God! The church believes that the confidence in Jesus’ words and the authenticity of Jesus’ actions will attract vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. The human being is gifted with the natural tendency to seek the truth about life in a relationship with others. St. John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter FIDES ET RATIO wrote, Human perfection, then, consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of the truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others. It is in this faithful self-giving that a person finds a fullness of certainty and security. The self is discovered in relation with the other.
The confidence in the voice of Jesus Christ is that of the word made flesh that dwells amongst us. The authenticity of his action stems from distinguishing Himself from the enemy, the thief. According to the gospel: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd leads by example. According to Him, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognize the voice of strangers.’
St. Peter warns us in the first reading to ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ We belong to a generation that has shut itself from the voice of God. It is difficult these days to hear or perceive God in the events around us. Save for the Covid-19 lockdown, our lives has been in a kind of auto pilot without a definite direction or course. Religious matters have been reclined to the private life. In the message of Pope Francis for the 2020 World Day for Vocations, he reflected on four key words – pain, gratitude, encouragement and praise – as a way of thanking and supporting the priests and the religious in their ministry. These keywords were derived from a reflection on the gospel concerning vocation and placing side by side the truth of the gospel and the present life situation.
Pope Francis writes in his message, “Every vocation is born of that gaze of love.” He goes on to say, Jesus “gives us the enthusiasm we need to live our vocation with joy and fervor.” He urges us to move from thoughts of discouragement and fatigue to ones of gratitude and praise. This is possible through the support we offer each other in the journey of life. Relationship is essential in the answer to God’s vocation. Our hope lies in the words of Jesus Christ: I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.
Fr Anthony Ekpunobi, CM.