From the pastor’s desk
Fourth Sunday of Easter – Year C– “…you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people…you will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).”
Today is traditionally the good shepherd Sunday and world day of prayers for vocations to the priesthood and religious/consecrated life. There are so many distractive voices speaking to us in our contemporary world. In the midst of these ugly voices, for the flock of the good shepherd to find salvation, we need to listen to his voice as he calls us on. Jesus our good shepherd tells us today that he and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30). Jesus is the Son of God who in the Old Testament showed his great might in his election of his people Israel and even more in bringing them out of Egypt, where they were languishing in enslavement.
After bringing them opposite Mount Sinai, he made Moses to prepare the people to enter into a covenant with him. He pointed out how he had treated their enemies and how he had brought them as on eagle wings to himself. He assured them that they would be his special possession dearer than every other people if they heeded his voice and kept his covenant. These were the conditions on which they would be to him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
We know that Israel was not always faithful to their God, but God continued to be faithful, granting mercy and forgiveness to his people, Israel. In his unconditional and compassionate love, mercy and forgiveness, God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who has sealed the new covenant of love in his own blood. He is the good shepherd who calls us to be the new Israel and leads us on to salvation. As our good shepherd, he put his own live on the firing line and died on the Cross to destroy our death. He rose again to restore our life, he ascended into heaven, to bring us to a higher life of union with our God.
He gave us the Holy Spirit to enable us to live the new life of oneness with our God. Today, he tells us that his sheep hear his voice. He knows us and wants us to follow his lead. We follow him by being one with him in his life, death and resurrection, as well as following him in his ascension and living in his Spirit. In this way, he protects us and gives us eternal life. The eternal life that he gives us is the knowledge of God, bringing us to have God-consciousness in our lives (Jn. 17:3). By this, as the new Israel, we enter into a covenant with God resulting to total sharing of life; loving what God loves, feeling what God feels and hating what God hates.
Our good shepherd wants us to enter into this relationship with our God. That is why he called his apostles to first be with him and then sent them to continue his divine vocation, mission and ministry in the world.
We see how the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles, especially Paul and Barnabas advanced on this cause amidst persecutions and difficulties. In the revelation Christ made to St. John on the Island of Patmos, the followers of Christ, the Christians are encouraged to continue on the part of virtue. It is revealed that those who go through the great tribulations as victors will be dressed in white robes holding palm branches celebrating everlasting feast of their victory in Christ. God’s protective presence will shield them under Christ’s loving care.
In appointing and sending out his seventy– two disciples, two by two, Jesus said to them: “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; ask the Lord of the harvest, to send workers into His harvest (Lk. 10:2).”
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. As he called the apostles the first time he came, so does he continue to call apostles today to continue his Divine Vocation, Mission and Ministry in the Holy Church. We are all sharers in the work of the apostles as our mothers and fathers have taught us.
Rev. Fr. Michael Onyekwere, SDV, PhD