4th Sunday of Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday, World Day of Prayer for Vocation

First reading: Acts 4:8–12

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Second reading: 1 Jn. 3:1–2

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Gospel: Jn. 10:11–18

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

In other words

by Fr. Dante Salces-Barril, SVD (Rome, Italy)

Today is World Day of Prayer for Vocation. The English word vocation comes from the Latin vocare which means “to call.” Interestingly, the Latin verb vocare is the root of the English word “church” which in Greek is ekklésia, taken from the Greek verb kaleó, which like the Latin vocare means “to call.” What I want to point out here is the ecclesial nature of vocation; our vocation (call) is not for personal consumption but is oriented towards communion (the Church).

We are also celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday today. The Gospel (Jn 10:11–18) has Jesus distinguish between a good shepherd and a hired shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his/her life for the sheep; a hired shepherd thinks of his/her life first. 

I believe we can also look at vocation in the way Jesus differentiates a good shepherd from a hired shepherd. Vocation is not a profession. A profession is work: it’s an 8 to 5 job, you can resign anytime, and you will retire eventually. Vocation on the other hand is a form of laying down one’s life; it’s not 8 to 5—it’s 24/7; you can’t resign—“it’s for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health” in the marriage vocation, and it is “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2) for the priestly and religious vocation; and you don’t retire—it is “until death do us part” for couples; it is “priest forever” for priests.

It sounds heavy and even scary. Why give your life to a “vocation” when you can have your life all to yourself and live like every day is a “vacation?” Because vacation—unlike vocation which is a call (vocare) towards communion—is a vacare, Latin for “unoccupied,” the root of the English word “vacant.” Here, the vocation to single blessedness is a counter-culture. A single-blessed person is neither vacant nor empty; he/she lives his/her life in the communion of persons in the Church.

He/she is present for aging parents, the ever-enthusiastic cheerleader of young nephews and nieces, the human “Swiss army knife” of overburdened siblings, and the coordinator of “everything” in the parish and the community.

We are called to something worth laying our life for and not to a life of empty and meaningless pursuits, to a lifelong vocation and not to an aimless vacation.

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