The Fourth Sunday of Easter we traditionally celebrate as Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocations Sunday. This is because in the Gospel of the day (from St. John’s Gospel), Jesus speaks of himself as the Shepherd who is prepared to lay down his life for his sheep.
When a man becomes a priest, he sacrifices his own will and chooses instead to follow Jesus and he aspires to become as Christ to others. In doing so, he answers Christ’s call to serve the Church and its people.
In the Gospel of that Sunday we hear that the Good Shepherd owns his sheep and cares for them accordingly. This is a different prospect from the hired hand charged with taking care of flock, since the hired man may run away to save his own life if the sheep are attacked, leaving them potentially scattered or injured. In contrast, the Good Shepherd puts his flock first rather than thinking of his own well-being, and will go the extra mile to find one of his lost or injured sheep.
Furthermore, St. John writes that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep, just as they know him: there is an indefinable and comforting bond of recognition. He speaks also of those sheep who do not belong to this fold, meaning those who do not know or have not yet come to Christ. Evangelisation is at the core of the Church’s mission, so that we may all be ‘one flock’ with ‘one Shepherd’. In following Jesus we are all able to give witness to the generous love of God, which is given willingly through the sacrifice of his Son, a sacrifice, which is perpetuated in the ministry of our Bishops and ordained priests.
Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B): John 10:11-18
“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 the 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.”
In many dioceses, Good Shepherd Sunday is an opportunity to pray for vocations, to encourage those who might be considering ordained or religious life, and for each of us to ask ourselves whether the Lord might be calling us to do some definite service for him. Find out more by exploring the reading the vocations testimonies of our newly ordained clergy.
On this day, Southwark also asks for your assistance in supporting our seminarians through their training and formation through prayer and a financial gift. Find out more.