Vocation Meditation -
Vocation Sunday, 2009
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away - and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep."
"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for my sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."
"For this reason 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 of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."
Today is Vocation Sunday. The image of the good shepherd sets before us the real vocation of Jesus in the Father's plan. Jesus has come to gather the flock of God. He has come also to call those who are not yet of the fold to bring them to the source of 'the green pastures' of the Kingdom of God. Calling Himself the good shepherd, Jesus qualifies His unique way of gathering and leading this flock.
Jesus leads His flock out of love, not out of gain. He is not a hireling, one that leaves the flock when dangers beset him for fear of his safety and not of the sheep.
Jesus leads His flock with great moral authority and with that graciousness and charm of a shepherd who cares for the strong as well as the weak. He knows each one of his sheep as much as his sheep knows him. His tremendous love for them has its source in the Father's deep love for each of His flock.
Jesus gathers His flock by breaking down all exclusiveness along the way. This vision of His has become the tremendous missionary task of the Church. It must proclaim Jesus' Word, near and far, that all may hear His voice and reach salvation. No sheep must be denied the call to fellowship with God. All must work towards unity of loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Jesus leads His flock by the strength and victory of His total, sacrificial love for them. Hence, all those who want to follow Jesus cannot but share in the ministry of shepherding His flock. But first, they must be trained along the way of obedience to the Father's will. They must welcome the cross and the glory of service. They must be, like Jesus, gracious and humble, strong and willing even to lay down their life for the flock.
I am called to shepherd, to lead others to the 'green pastures' of the Kingdom.
Am I guided by the pastoral charity of Christ, the Good Shepherd?
You sent your Son to tend your sheep and to gather your scattered flock on earth. Inspire me and many young men and women to respond to your call by the gift of our lives. Make us like shepherds according your heart. Amen.
For the full Gospel reading for this Sunday, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site.