Homily (Reflection) for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (The Good Shepherd Sunday) (B) (25th April, 2021) on the Gospel

Acts 4:8-12;

Ps 117:1.8-9.21-23.26.28-29 (R.V. 22);

1Jn 3:1-2;

Jn 10:11-18.

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.

Topic: Shepherds and Hired Labourers.

In the Jewish culture, the word shepherd means much more than one who takes care of the ‘sheep’. It designates any person in leadership position. We shall cite only two passages. While praying for a successor, Moses likened a leader to a shepherd, cf. Num 27: 16-17. Again, when all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron they pleaded with him in these words, “... to you it was that Yahweh promised, ‘You are to shepherd my people Israel and be leader of Israel’” (2Sam 5:2, cf. 1Chr 11:2).

And the functions of leaders that deserve the name include feeding the flock, gathering the lambs, carrying them in his/her bosom, and gently leading those that are with young, cf. Is 40:11. The absence of a shepherd and/or the presence of a bad one spell doom for the sheep. In the prophet Ezekiel we read, “... they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts” (Ezek 34:5). The sheep suffers afflictions in the absence of a good shepherd, cf. Zech 10:2.

In the gospel, we hear these words from Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). On the other hand, “The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away – and the wolf snatches them” (Jn 10:12).

I would like us to reflect on the good shepherd as it concerns the family. In every family, the father and the mother are the shepherds. However, as these become professionals in different fields, many forget their primary duties as parents. Becoming a professional is not bad provided the primary assignment does not suffer. In many families today, maids, houseboys, nannies, drivers and the likes have taken over completely the responsibilities of mothers and fathers. Although the help of these may be needed but if they take over the responsibilities of the shepherds of the families, it signals serious danger.

In the prophet Zechariah we read, “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword smite his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zech 11:17). These words might look so simple but they are not for they are condemnations for any shepherd who fails to shepherd.

We must remember that it will be very difficult if not impossible to enjoy our wealth, fame, and so on if we lose our children. Your children are the highest investment you can make.

Even in the church, many pastors today channel all their energy towards dedicating church buildings and do very little or nothing towards dedicating the people of God who are the true church, cf. Eph 5:23; Col 1:18; 1Cor 12:12.  Most regrettably, in some parts of Europe, many churches dedicated to God have been auctioned and converted to other uses like warehouses among others. All these things we struggle for today without struggling for the good of our children, what do you think that will happen to them tomorrow?

The condition of many children today is not different from that of the crowds Jesus pitied in the gospel according to Matthew: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36; cf. Mk 6:34). Finally, no matter how good and wonderful a hired hand is, he/she cannot take the place of mother and/or father in the life of a child. Your children need you more than any other thing needs you. The question is, ‘Will you give them yourself or a hired hand? As we pray for the increase in the vocation to the Catholic Priesthood and the religious life, we must remember that grace builds on nature. Well-trained children do better in the Lord’s vineyard.

Bible Reading: Ezek 34:1-31; Zech 11:4-17.

Thought for today: How far do you do your work as a shepherd?

Let us pray: Good shepherd, give us the grace to follow your example in shepherding the sheep under us to the point of laying our lives for them – Amen.

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