Theme: THE GOOD SHEPHERD LOVES AND LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP IN OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMAND OF THE FATHER
- Acts 4:8-12;
- Psalm 117 (118):1. 8-9. 21-23. 26. 28-29. R/ v. 22;
- 1 John 3:1-2
- John 10:11-18
Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter, Liturgical Year B. Today we also celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday. The themes of “Good Shepherd” and “Vocation” are related. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare” meaning “to call”, particularly the call to the priesthood and religious life! The image of the Good Shepherd is the image of the good priest or good religious!
The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd! The gospel tells us that the Good Shepherd has four characteristics (Jn 10:14-18; CE):
(i) The Good Shepherd knows and loves God his Father and is known and loved by God his Father. (In biblical language, ‘knowledge’ is love. NJBg)
(ii) The Good Shepherd knows and loves his sheep and is known and loved by his sheep.
(iii) The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep in obedience to the command of God his Father.
(iv) The Good Shepherd unites his sheep into one flock.
The good priest or religious also has theses four characteristics:
(i) A good priest or religious knows and loves God the Father and is known and loved by God the Father. That is, a good priest or religious must be a man or woman of prayer, of the word of God, of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. (Pope’s Message)
(ii) A good priest or religious knows and loves the people of God and is known and loved by the people of God! That is why we have BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities) to share and pray on the word of God in a personal and spiritual way, so that we will know God, love him, serve him and be happy with him; and so that we will know one another, love one another, serve one another and be happy with one another!
(iii) A good priest or religious is one who lays down his or her life for the people of God in obedience to the command of God. A good priest or religious does not only love and serve God and the people of God, but he or she also suffers and sacrifices for God and the people of God, in order to sanctify and save the world! The word “sacrifice”, radically means “to make holy”, that is, to sanctify and save! (CE)
(iv) A good priest or religious unites the people of God. He or she unites the different communities in the Church and he or she unites the different peoples of the world! Thus the Church becomes a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the world!
Today is Vocation Sunday and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has a special message for us. In his message, our Pope also said that vocation to the priesthood or religious life basically means to love and serve God, and to love and serve the people of God! But more importantly, our Pope also said that vocation comes from the love of God. Thus the theme of his message: “Vocations, the Gift of the love of God”! Our love and service of God and the people of God are only a response to the love and call of God which is a free gift of God’s initiative! That is why we have to pray for vocations!
Today in our Diocese of Sandakan we have one bishop, seven priests (two in Tawau, two in Lahad Datu, two in Sandakan, and one in Telupid), eleven seminarians and aspirants (six in Kuching, two in “Initiation Year” in Kota Kinabalu, and three in “English Year” in Kota Kinabalu). We have another two seminarians, one for the Franciscan priesthood and one for the Carmelite priesthood. Both of them are from Tawau! Let us pray for our Bishop, our priests and our seminarians and let us pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Pray especially for the two priests in our parish that they may be good priests. Today the first and second collections will be given to our Bishop for the seminary and seminarians, that is, our future priests! Thank you and God bless you.
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.