1.Acts 13:14,43-52
2. Rev7:9,14-17

          "Priesthood is understood in the light of the good shepherd"

Dear friends in Christ, today is World day of prayers for Vocations, a day that Christians are invited to reflect on the meaning of God's call and to pray for vocations. To help us reflect on the meaning of the priestly vocation, the church presents to us  in today's gospel the figure of Jesus the good shepherd. Last Sunday we saw Our Lord three times giving Peter the charge to " feed my sheep." In that way he made Peter a shepherd, a pastor. Our Lord continued his work of shepherding  his people through Peter and his co-workers: the apostles and disciple, and through their successors: the pope, the bishops, priests, deacons, catechists and committed lay people.

Jesus is depicted as the Good Shepherd. However, the term ' shepherd' embraces all who have executive powers and have something to do with administration, direction, management or guidance of people.

Like for example:
In the political order, we have the president, ministers, permanent secretaries, members of parliament, regional commissioners, department heads and others.
In the family and educational orders, we have the parents, guardians, professors, class instructors, teachers, supervisors, superintendents and others.
In the ecclesiastical order, we have the pope, the bishops, priests chaplains, directors and others.
In Basic Christian Community, we have the chairman, lay cooperators, catechists and others.
In brief, this Sunday is for anyone who is the head or leader of any group or undertaking.

Peter was like the captain of a team; by entrusting the work of feeding  his sheep to Peter, Jesus entrusting it to us all. Today we see that this work which Jesus has confided to the Church in danger. This is because those who had been entrusted this work as pastors some have left the ministry for reasons best known to themselves. However, there are many contributing factors to this crisis, but one of them, I believe, is a loss of understanding among the people of God of what priesthood is supposed to be. It is under this background that today  we reflect on Jesus the Good Shepherd, because in Him we see what a pastor , a shepherd, should be.

In biblical times there were two kinds of shepherds. There was the hired shepherd for whom keeping the sheep was just the available job. He could move from one flock to the other depending on the conditions of service, but he would not risk his life for them. Seeing the wolves or thieves coming he would flee for dear life and leave the flock at the mercy of the invaders. Jesus said that He is not that kind of shepherd.

There is also the shepherd- owner of the flock who grows up with the flock and stays with the same flock  all his life. He knows each and every sheep  in the flock individually. He calls  each one by name and could tell you the personal story of each of the sheep, when and where it were born, the problems it has had in life, its personal characteristics, etc. He gives personal attention to each and every one of the sheep. He knows which one was likely to lag behind after a long walk and he would go and carry that one in his arms. He knows which one was likely to stray from the flock and he would keep an eye on that one when they get to dangerous places. He knows which one are pregnant and need a special kind of food. When attacked by wolves or thieves he would fight to the death to defend even one of his sheep. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

By the expression, " laying down one's life" comes from the fact that the sheep were kept in an enclosed space with only an opening for the sheep to go in and out. At night the shepherd usually lay down across the opening so that the sheep would not wander out and wolves would not get in. The good shepherd accepts personal inconveniences like this for the good of his sheep. If any got lost he would climb mountains and hills looking for it and calling out its name. And whether the lost sheep had fallen into a pit or was strapped in a bush of thorns, as soon as it heard the voice of its master it would bleat and the shepherd would go to rescue it.

By calling Himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus shows the kind of leadership that should exist in the community of his followers. It should be a leadership where each person is called by name. In today's computerized society we are no longer called by name. We are known by numbers: your checkbook number, your driver's license number, your social insurance numbers, your credit card number. You are simply number so and so.

Nevertheless, the Good Shepherd today reminds us that we must not allow that to happen in the church. Each one of us has a distinct personality, with a distinct history and a distinct set of abilities and needs. Like the Good Shepherd, we must show this personal touch in the way we relate to one another. This surely is the way God relates to us, this is the way priests and all church ministers, including parish secretaries, should relate to the people of God. When people see in us that what we are doing  is not a job rather a service to God and to God's people, then they will be able to see the meaning of Christian vocation and be more willing to join in this ministry. We pray today for all in pastoral ministry that they may display in their work the qualities of the Good Shepherd and not those of the hired shepherd, and we make this prayer through Christ our Lord Amen

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Chapisha Maoni