Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2024

Vocation Sunday

I know a lot about sheep, having grown up with one. All of us Saegaert kids thought we were experts on sheep because we read every encyclopedia entry we could find so we knew what to expect, how to handle a lamb crisis and what Humphrey liked to eat. Onions, mostly. Straight from the garden. Our onion garden, as a matter of fact.

What I don’t know much about is shepherds, except that theirs is a terribly lonely life, at least in the days of Jesus. They had no Sudoku books to tuck into their pouches, and no way to communicate with a shepherd friend in the next pasture. There was little excitement, unless you call a wolf attack excitement—but that was usually a catastrophe. Raising and keeping sheep was a thankless task, and even if a shepherd really loved his flock and somehow enjoyed his job, he was ridiculed in polite circles.

Yet Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. He knew His sheep by their first names and would risk His Life for His sheep to protect them from their wayward selves and from the enemy who tried to sneak into the pasture to grab them by their vulnerable little necks and drag them off for supper—literally.  And, sure enough, the people in the polite circles ridiculed Him even as He lay dying on the cross for His ragged Flock.

Today is called Good Shepherd Sunday, when we are invited to pray for people to come and live out their lives caring for the Sheep. For priestly and religious vocations. For saintly bishops who will protect their flocks wisely no matter what the cost, and for missionaries who will leave behind everything they hold dear to cross the sea or the mountains or the Rio Grande to serve the lambs that just can’t seem to get their feet on solid ground because they were born into poverty in the first place and coyotes steal their few coins with promises of a luxury that never happens. To pray for young people in our parish churches who will follow the Good Shepherd into the streets, or the class room or the hospital, or the prison where lambs are lost, depressed or afraid and have never heard the Name of Jesus spoken with love. Let us pray for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. May the Holy Spirit open the hearts of many young men and women to respond to the invitation of God to belong completely to Him and to serve the flock with great love. Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

“With Mary, our lives continually proclaim the greatness of the Lord and the joy experienced in rendering service to Him.”

Holy Rule

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