Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. We celebrate today the fourth Sunday of Easter which is also known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ or ‘Vocation Sunday.’ This is because the Gospel is always taken from John where Jesus identifies himself as ‘the Good Shepherd’ who knows his sheep, cares for them and gives them eternal life.
Today, we hear much on the importance of social services, opportunities, mental health and well-being. All of these issues are very important and necessary. However, imagine we had a world where everyone had a good job, where the best services of physical and mental health were available, where the best roads and facilities were in place. Life might be good but would we all be happier? Would this guarantee that the levels of crime would fall? Would less people take their own lives and would less people be addicted to drugs and alcohol? The answer of course is no because the human heart longs for more than money, jobs, facilities and opportunities. The human heart longs for love, for meaning, for family and to know that we matter to someone. Every human life longs to directly experience the love of God which keeps it alive.
On this vocation Sunday, I can think of no higher vocation that we as Church have, than to insist on the dignity of every human being and their vocation from God to love and be loved. And when we read the Gospel on this Sunday, this is precisely Jesus’ message to us. He says: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them’. We belong to a God who knows us and loves us. We are not the result of a chance but are willed by the God who made us human. He says: ‘They listen to my voice’. Deep in our hearts we recognise the voice of God’s truth who has placed his Spirit in us. We know what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false. We know that we have a vocation, a calling. We know that we are made for more than this world, for eternal life and we are on that journey together. Therefore, every life is precious, sacred and unique.
On this Vocations Sunday, we are asked to pray for priests and religious in a special way. Our vocation as priests is to remind you of your vocation. If the Church is to be a voice that defends the dignity and vocation of all, then the leadership and presence of priests and religious is crucial. We ask you to please pray for us in our vocations and to pray for and encourage vocations in our parishes and diocese – that those who sense the voice of the Good Shepherd calling them to serve as priests and religious may listen to that voice and respond with faith and generosity.
‘God our Father we trust in your loving kindness. Bless our diocese of Ferns with many priestly and religious vocations. Give the men and women you call the light to understand your gift and the love to follow always in the footsteps of your Son. Amen’.