Homily (Reflection) for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd or Vocation Sunday), (A) (03rd May, 2020) on the Gospel and the Celebration
Acts 2:14.36-41;Ps. 23:1-6 (R. v. 11);
Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as the Good Shepherd or Vocation Sunday. In line with Christ’s injunction: “… ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Matt 9:38), the Church is praying for the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life in a special way today. This forms part of the general intentions for today and priests are also called to give homilies on this subject, the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life today.
Topic: That They May Have Life In Full (cf. Jn 10:10).
While carrying out his public ministry, Jesus declared: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Matt 9:37-38, cf. Lk 10:2). However, judging by the number of priests some dioceses and Congregations have and the way young men and women are either refused entrance to formation houses and also the way they are sent out, people sometimes wonder whether it is still necessary to pray for the increase in the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life today. For instance, a friend of mine narrated to me how he had seriously sought for admission into the seminary to enable him serve God as a priest but all to no avail. From his story, he seems to be saying with the Psalmist:
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple (Ps 27:4).
With this in mind among many others, I looked for answers in the Word of God. As we have noted, the call to pray for the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life is from Jesus. And we also read in the gospel according to Saint Luke:
As they were going along the road, someone said to him [Jesus], ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’. To another he said, ‘Follow me’. But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father (Lk 9:57-59, cf. Matt 8:18-22).
People look at the priesthood and the religious life from different points. For many, they are shortcuts to heaven. Hum! Remember the true words of Saint John Chrysostom, “The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.” Hence, I see priests and religious men and women as people caught in-between saving themselves as well as others. There is always danger of either forgetting the people or themselves. And for some, the pursuit of material things is the order of the day. The bitter truth is that as the call to the priesthood and the religious life might be seen as a shortcut to heaven it can also be seen even more as shortcuts to not just hell but its deepest part.
We also read: “Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles” (Lk 6:12-13). In his letter to the Romans Paul wrote: “…as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Rom 12:4-5). Reading further, Paul made it clear that we have different functions, cf. Rom 12:6-8, 1Cor 12:27-31; Eph 4:11. There is one God and it is for this God that we all are called to our various vocations, cf. 1Cor 8:6. Whatever vocation one is in, what is important is to live the life worthy of God, cf. 1Thess 2:12. Hence for Saint Paul, the most important thing is to do everything to the glory of God, cf. 1Cor 10:31 because we are all sons of God through faith, cf. Gal 3:26. However, I consider one Igbo adage very important here: onwenụ na-eke literally meaning that it is the work of the master to assign each his/her portion. It is God who calls each person to various vocations. We must avoid calling ourselves or worse others to various vocations.
The call to the priesthood and the religious life is far beyond mere desires no matter how strong the desire might be. Saint Peter first expressed his own desires: “…Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you’. Jesus answered … Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times” (Jn 13:37-38). We remember what happened, cf. Mk 14:66-72. It is God’s call and not man’s. In his letters, Saint Paul made it clear that he became an apostle simply by the will of God, cf. 1Cor 1:1; 2Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1. The desire to become a priest or a religious should take us to the formation houses where the people who are entrusted with this enormous task of discernment will decipher whether it is genuine or not. If they did not see it as a genuine vocation, do not see it as the end of the world. You can be rewarded as priests and religious men and women simply by doing your work well and supporting the work of evangelization, cf. Matt 10:41,42; Mk 9:41; 2Jn 1:8. Whoever does the will of God will receive what is promised, cf. Heb 10:36. No matter the vocation one is called to, happiness awaits all who shares Christ's sufferings in their vocations, cf. 1Pt 4:13.
Again as we pray for the vocation to the priesthood and the religious life it is important for us, priests and religious men and women to look at ourselves to know if we can truly say with Christ: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly?” If yes, thanks be to God. But if not why, can’t something be done positively?
The need for the increase in vocation to the priesthood and religious life is more important today than when it was first made. There are areas that do not have as much as catechists today. Again, the work of evangelization is becoming more and more sophisticated than ever and needs men and women who will devote themselves for the work. So pray more than ever for the vocation to the priesthood and religious life.
Bible Reading: Matt 8:18-22; 9:35-38; Lk 9:57-62; Rom 12: 1-8; 1Cor 12:12-31.
Thought for today: Sincerely speaking, who are you or planning to become in the vineyard – a thief or a good shepherd?
Let us pray: Lord and Master of the vineyard, give us the grace to be the best of instruments in your vineyard – Amen.
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