Acts 4. 7 – 12
Responsorial Psalm: 118
1 John 3. 1 – 2
John 10. 11-18

The first reading talks about the stone that was rejected by the builders becoming the keystone of the building. There is a clear reference there to Jesus himself, the rejected one. We can all feel at times like the rejected stone, for whatever reason. Yet, we are never rejected in the Lord’s eyes. He continues to call us in the way that is unique to us. He sees us as the keystone for some aspect of his work. He recognizes the potential for good that is within us all. On this Vocations Sunday we commit ourselves anew to hearing and responding to the call of the good shepherd.
Paul and Barnabas ‘spoke out boldly’, and made an impact. A courageous proclamation of the gospel to our contemporaries can be as fruitful now as it was in apostolic times. All the baptized, particularly those who are confirmed, are bound to spread the faith. Laity as well as priests and religious are in the service of the Risen Lord. Our faith urges us to take personal part in the work of evangelization. Are we doing so? How many evils persist in our society just because good people say nothing and do nothing? A breviary hymn of Eastertide (no.25) spells out what is expected of us by the Risen Lord: Now he bids us tell abroad/How the lost may be restored/How the penitent forgiven/ How we too may enter heaven.

The word shepherd further connotes relation: It is a relational word, calling for its counterpart, sheep. The goodness of the shepherd is manifested in his relationship, in his attitude towards his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He, unlike hirelings, loves His sheep and in moments of danger, risks His life for the safety and protection of His sheep. This generates trust. And it is this trust that makes the sheep listen to His voice and leads them to know him. A deep and intimate relationship is thus established between the sheep and the good shepherd. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is God’s love and compassion in action.

It is an illusion for man to think that he can manage all by himself. In doing so he ends up making a mess of his life or following blind leaders or giving himself to causes that bind him into a knotty bundle, leaving him empty and fettered.

How touching are Jesus’ words! “I am the Good Shepherd. I have the interests of My sheep foremost in My heart. I am ready to lay down My life for My sheep.” How lucky we are to belong to the flock of Jesus! We did nothing to merit it. Jesus is our heavenly Father’s free gift to us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us to the kingdom of His Father. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a large, shady tree with huge, outspread branches where birds from all over flock to nest, and relax. This kingdom is a place of serene security and peaceful rest. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep into green pastures. There one can be free from anxieties and worries and lead a carefree life. Beautiful, enchanting, images! But what needless cares we carry because we don’t care to be cared for by the caring concerned fried – Jesus!

The shepherd image in the catacombs appealed to Christians from the start, because it conveys the personal nature of the relationship between Jesus and his followers; it portrays the close personal care that the shepherd has for the sheep. The shepherd has gone looking for the one sheep that was wandered off and having found it, he takes it home to the flock upon his shoulders. There is a bond between the shepherd and this one sheep. That is what Jesus conveys in today’s gospel. He declares that he knows his own and his own know him, just as the Father knows him and he knows the Father. It is an extraordinary statement to make. Jesus is saying that the very personal relationship he has with his heavenly Father is the model for the equally personal relationship he has with each one of us. Jesus knows us as intimately as the Father knows him, and he wants us to know him as intimately as he knows the Father. There is a great deal to ponder there. When it comes to the Lord we are not just one of a crowd, lost in a sea of faces. In a way that we will never fully understand, the Lord knows each one of us by name. He relates to us in a personal way and he invites us to relate to him in a personal way. He wishes to enter into a personal relationship with each one of us. I am often struck by a line in Saint Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, where he says, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’. We can each make our own those words of Saint Paul. When Jesus says in today’s gospel that, as the good shepherd, ‘I lay down my life for my sheep’, he is saying that he lays down his life for each one of us individually.
The Lord who knows us by name, who gave himself in love for each one of us, also calls us by name. Today is Vocations Sunday. The Lord has a calling that is personal to each one of us. He calls us in our uniqueness with our very particular temperament, our unique identity, the background that is specific to each one of us. No one of us is like anyone else. Parents know how distinct and unique each of their children is. They will all have been given the same love; they grow up in basically the same environment. Yet, from a very early age, their uniqueness becomes very evident. The family is a microcosm of the church as a whole. From the time of our baptism, we are each called to be the Lord’s disciples, to follow the good Shepherd. However, the way we do that will be unique to each one of us. The particular way in which the Lord works through us is unique to each one of us. I can do something for the Lord that only I can do. Each person in this church can do something for the Lord that only he or she can do. Each one of us has a unique contribution to make to the work of the Lord in the world, to the life of the church, and that contribution is just as vital as anyone else’s contribution. We each have a unique vocation and each vocation is equally significant. Each one of us is vitally important to the Lord. When we each respond to our unique vocation, we give a lift to everyone else. When any one of us fails to respond to that vocation, we are all a little bit impoverished.
God bless