“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life 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.”
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. All of the readings from scripture on Sundays follow a three year cycle. Typically, Year A uses mostly the Gospel of Matthew, Year B uses the Gospel of Mark and the sixth chapter of John, and Year C uses the Gospel of Luke. In the Easter Season for all three years, most of the gospel readings are from the Gospel of John, although there are some exceptions.
Feast days may have their own gospel readings which may or may not coincide with the particular year. Today, we are in Year B in the Easter Season. In all three years, the gospel readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, although not the same, do all come from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John and relate to Jesus as the (good) shepherd. Hence, the unofficial title for this Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday.
In a more recent development, because of the “good shepherd” theme of the Gospel readings, which is explicit in today’s gospel, that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, the Fourth Sunday of Easter has also been designated as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, it’s 55th anniversary. Everyone has a vocation, or a call from God, and we appreciate the diversity of calls. Today, however, we specifically pray for those who may have a call to priesthood, the permanent diaconate, or any form of consecrated or religious life. Please join me in praying for “the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2).
Laying down our lives for others also has a component of offering our lives up to God. The suscipe (“receive”) prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola has always reminded me that laying down my life isn’t just about physical death, but to make all of life an offering:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
We have been blessed to have Deacon Minh Vu with us last summer and this year at both St. Boniface and St. Patrick. He has been preparing for priesthood, and what an amazing journey it has been for him! We pray in a special way for his vocation to the priesthood today and his Priesthood Ordination will be on Saturday, May 26, at 11:00 am at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Mark your calendars and join me then!