26th April: Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B.

Introduction
In our gospel today we see Christ the Good Shepherd watching over, caring, and laying down his life for us. Now as Risen Lord he continues leading us to green pastures of the Spirit. Lets confess any ways we hurt or ignore that loving Lord..

Homily
When in the Holy land I’d see shepherds chatting on hillsides their sheep milling together. They’ll never sort out that lot I’d say. But a shepherd would call and each lot of sheep would distentangle themselves and trot after their master. Christian life is like that; Jesus calls and we follow freely to green pastures. Each of us does that in specific callings, nurses, teachers, shopkeepers etc. But of course our greatest shepherding role is within our families. Marriage is a sacrament because great grace is needed for loving faithful care of spouse and children. And those who dont marry are free for other caring roles in the church and world. True witness in this, or married and family love, is as important as consecrated ways of life and as vital to the church’s holiness.
That said, we pray specially for priestly and religious vocations this Good Shepherd Sunday, for the scarcity of these is worrying. Lay should take key roles in the church, but we still need priests to preside at the eucharist and shepherd the flock. And we need monks, sisters and brothers to serve, pray for, and enrich the church beyond measure. But they wont come unless from among us, out of our faith and prayer. There is a crisis in such vocations now, but also ways we can address it: prayer and eucharistic adoration: suggesting priestly or religious vocations to our children; sharing our vocation story; serving in parish ministry and letting our children do so; supporting those interested in priestly or religious life; and above all nurturing the existing vocations that we have.
For many are shell-shocked in the present secular climate. But that’s not our tradition. Its not right that our persecutors are now our own, as if our great spiritual heritage meant nothing. Look where the world is leading us! Recession, despair, austerity and irreligion. A holy person said to me recently I fear we face an increasingly evil irreligious age. Concerted attacks on the church by those who should represent us all fairly have left many demoralised. Four young young priests left our diocese recently. Sure some disgraced the cloth, but lets not tar all consecrated people with that brush; we don’t condemn Christ because Judas was bad. Lets show good clerics and religious they’re appreciated or soon we may have none. Only a godless aspiritual society where our children’s focus is wholly earthly, and the salvation of their immortal souls neglected.
Thats a terrible prospect, for even secular authorities agree that for our inner happiness and very survival we need faith; recently on Kerry radio a noted psychiatrist said we should believe for our inner good. Scientific studies show evolution favours those of faith. We need it to survive as our history proves, it sustained our ancestors through persecution. False shepherds fill the void when good shepherds are scarce. So we dare not ignore this crisis. Maybe its God’s will that they are fewer so that the laity can shine; and maybe the crisis is God’s way of changing a harsh hierarchical church. But we still need priests for the eucharist and religious to permeate the church and the world with holiness, to foster our children’s moral and spiritual health unto eternity. So lets pray fervently to Christ the good shepherd for more good pastors and religious to renew the holy faith. For the world of which Satan is lord fades to ashes, leaving us empty at death. But Christ is truth, beauty, peace, happiness and salvation for this life and forever, amen.
So as God’s people, by prayer and practical means inspiring a new flowering of consecrated life, lets profess our faith…

Prayers of the faithful
And as the people of God gathered here, we pray to our heavenly Father for the things that we need now, especially vocations..

For the Pope and all pastors of the local and universal church; may they inspire new priestly and religious shepherds who, like Christ, will love and serve God and others humbly..

For our civic leaders that they may not put obstacles in the way of the church but enable it to live it in freedom and fullness of faith, as it has done since the lifting of past persecutions..

For young people that while enjoying life fully here, they may also see that the world is not enough, and so seek the deeper happiness and inner riches of Christ unto eternal glory..

For ourselves that in our home and vocational work we may shepherd others with Christ gentle care, and live our lives in the uplifting light of his timeless faith, grace and love..

For the sick, the aged, the lonely, the oppressed, and the impoverished that through our deep Christian care and sharing they may know the love of God and his Christ..

For the dead, that through their faith and charity in this world and our prayers they may come to the fullness of light and peace.

And we ask all these prayers through Christ the only lord of life, peace, grace and happiness forever and ever, amen.

Reflection
When my brother was sick and lost in London, mother asked us to pray fervently for him. We stormed heaven, as she put it, and he was found. Such a good outcome doesn’t always happen, but our staunch underlying faith helps us whatever ensues. For we are led by the Good Shepherd, rather than false worldly shepherds such as Christ condemns in the Gospel. Lets pray confidently to Mary, mother of the church, for good shepherds for it now..Hail Mary

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