2021 4th Sunday of Easter (B)
Today we read in the gospel about Christ as the Good Shepherd. Today is also Vocations’ Sunday, when the whole church prays for vocations. The two are linked: the good shepherd and vocations. All of us are called to be like Christ, whether we are priests, nuns, fathers, mothers, children, single or married; all of us are called by God for a purpose; that is the meaning of vocation: to be called.
Among the multitude of vocations there is one specific and rare vocation; that is to priesthood and religious life. Those few who receive this vocation are called to imitate Christ the good shepherd in a special way. Christ, as a good shepherd is prepared to lay down his life for his sheep. And a priest or religious is called to do the same. And you can see in the world today that there are priests and nuns who have done this; every year many priests and religious lay down their lives for their people. They are our heroes. So it is not a call that one takes lightly. But it is God who calls, we respond. It is God who gives us the courage to be like him.
I did not always want to be a priest. I was 25 before I made this awesome decision. Before that I had thought I would get married; it wasn’t for lack of trying. But God called me to serve Him in this way. Not that I saw it in those terms. I had been unhappy in my job for years. I thought about what I could do instead, do something I would be good at. Whatever I was to do in the future it had to be with people; I had come to love serving people. Then one day I realized that I could do this as a priest. What a wonderful grace that was and is.
Among the many things I have been grateful for as a Carmelite, one of them has been the opportunity to travel; to visit other countries, to learn their language and culture: to Italy, Spain, Israel-Palestine and Malawi; what a blessing that has been. I was blessed to spend almost 5 years in Jerusalem; to live in the land where Jesus, the Good Shepherd lived; to be in the city where he both died and rose again. I have a wooden statue of the Good Shepherd I bought in Bethlehem; it’s on my bedside cupboard. It is a reminder to me of those wonderful years but also that he is looking after me because he loves me, and again, a reminder that I too am called to be a Good Shepherd. Next year I shall be celebrating 40 years of priesthood. It is my prayer that others will also respond in this special way to the calling of God: to be Good shepherds; to love people by serving them. I can honestly say, hand on heart, it is the best job in the world.