Today’s readings in the Catholic church during this Easter season are oftentimes known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday per the selection from sacred scripture. Today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We must always remember to pray for our men and women called by God that receive the spiritual call to imitate Jesus as the Divine Shepherd.
In the Gospel passage from John, chapter 10 verses 11-18 Jesus proclaims the following:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
The message from John’s Gospel is a great reminder that we must all unite behind the common goal of bringing others closer to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Oftentimes, as human beings, we are much like sheep. We tend to lose focus of the important aspects of our Christian life and wander off into danger. We let the petty distractions of the world and vainglory dull our senses and higher calling of being an Easter people with eyes always pointed to God and the Parousia or second coming. We are one Christian church despite the many rites, denominations and faith traditions that should always seek the goal of evangelizing others as our primary call. Bringing our fellow “sheep” closer to knowing who our great and awesome God is through the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, should be our ultimate task. Today, as we reflect on the good news, are you like the hired shepherd that wishes to flee and run from danger? Perhaps, we are not ready to have steadfast courage to face the many wolves in our life and possibly lay down our very own life for the “sheep”, or our brothers and sisters in need of His saving mercy in distress or danger?
According to the Vatican, “Globally there is one priest for every 3,373 Catholics in the world. But the ratio is one priest for every 5,534 Catholics in the Americas and one priest for every 5,101 Catholics in Africa. There are 1,784 Catholics per priest in Europe, 2,137 Catholics per priest in Asia and 2,437 Catholics per priest in Oceania.” (https://catholicreview.org/vatican-statistics-show-decline-in-clergy-religious-women-worldwide/). We must pray for a bountiful harvest where more will answer the call.
Let us pray for those who work in the Lord’s harvest, that they may fully imitate our Good Shepherd, who bring life to others in a troubled world. Let us examine our own Christian worldview and take up our mission to not only serve others, but to boldly and courageously fend off the wolves that distract us from our mission. May we bring our brothers and sisters closer to knowing Him through our very actions, words and deeds this day for Jesus is our Good Shepherd.
Pray for all priests that they may receive God’s grace to be good and holy priests. Pray for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Sometimes we may not like certain priests at a parish – have you prayed for them lately or provided words of encouragement? According to a study conducted by the Catholic Project at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC regarding burnout, “the report says that 45% of priests surveyed reported at least one symptom of ministry burnout, unevenly distributed between diocesan (50%) and religious (33%) priests. Only 9% exhibited severe burnout, the report says, but the report’s authors cautioned that younger priests were significantly more likely than older priests to experience burnout.” (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252588/major-survey-of-catholic-priests-finds-trust-issues-burnout-fear-of-false-allegations).
One of the prayers we should recite that is attributed to Saint John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, is the following retrieved from (https://www.sjvcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Saint-John-Vianney-Prayers.pdf):
Prayer for Priests by Saint John Vianney
God please give your Church today many more priests after your own heart. May they be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd.
May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance;
Being examples of humility and poverty;
Shining models of holiness;
Tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God;
Zealous dispensers of your grace in the sacraments.
May their loving devotion to your Son Jesus in the Eucharist and to Mary his Mother Be the twin fountains of fruitfulness for their ministry.