4th Easter Vocation Sunday May 8, 2022
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Who are these “sheep”? We are!
Being compared to sheep is not particularly complimentary in our society. The words “dumb” and “sheep” seem naturally to go together.
However, that is not the affect or feeling of this statement. Rather “sheep” is a name of endearment, more like “lamb”. It is a sign of affection, and care. “My sheep hear my voice,” This is a sign of recognition and of trust. “I know them”, an indication of closeness and intimacy. “and they follow me,” a designation of discipleship and union.
Altogether the Lord’s statement is a sign of closeness and intimacy. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.”
Because of this beautiful passage in the Gospel today, this Sunday is called Vocation Sunday. It is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the call that we have received from Jesus to be His follower. Regardless of our station in life, as Christians we have been chosen, called and consecrated to the Lord Jesus’ service, regardless if we do that as a single person, a married person, a professed religious, or a deacon, priest or bishop.
All of us here are the subjects of Jesus’ affirming statement: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Then Jesus goes on to say something remarkable: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” How very beautiful. How wonderful. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” We have great things to look forward to!
While this assurance is given to all of us who are baptized and are a part of the Lord’s people, in a particular way today we focus on the vocation of service to the Lord’s people as a priest, deacon, or religious. This is, in addition to Mother’s Day, also “Vocation Sunday”.
God’s holy people need more priests, women and men religious, and deacons. Not so much bishops. We have enough bishops, but we do need more priests, deacons and women religious.
At the end of this week I will have been ordained 44 years. I can hardly imagine that. During that time I have been extraordinarily blessed with several great assignments, every one of them giving me the opportunity to know and work with some truly gifted and holy people: other priests, religious women, and dedicated lay people. It has been fulfilling beyond my greatest expectations; challenging to continual growth; and never dull. My life has been full of surprises, most of them wonderful or pleasant, several of them challenging to growth, and some scary and uncomfortable. But always graced.
We, as God’s holy people, badly need more vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and to religious life. Recently I had the great opportunity to visit four missions on Navajo and Zuni Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. The work there of the women religious, who are the constant stay and backbone of those ministries, is phenomenal and inspiring. But like me, they are all getting old. Fr Rich Andre is leaving. We were blessed these past two years to have three priests on the parish staff, but that will not continue.
So please pray for vocations. Keep praying. Your prayers are really, really important.
If you know of someone who you think might make a good priest, deacon or religious sister, TELL THEM THAT. They may have had the idea or inkling, but thought they couldn’t do it. Your affirming statement is really, really important.
When I joined the Paulists, and was ordained a priest, I had certain ideas of what priesthood was all about and what I would do. The reality, however, was much different. But what is important to know, the reality was much BETTER than I had even imagined. I am truly blessed to have received a vocation to Paulist priesthood. I hope and pray that some of you may be similarly blessed. AMEN.