Ac 4.8-12; Ps 118; 1Jn 3.1-2; Jn 10. 11-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Universal and Particular
The imagery of shepherd and Jesus’ self-designation as the good shepherd invite us to consider Jesus as our anchor for each of us personally as well as for the church. A word about our Shepherd, and a word about us.
As good shepherd Jesus is more than a guide. Jesus offers us the life he shares with his Father. We heard him remind us that he his this life’s cornerstone and foundation: This is why 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 on my own. What we name as resurrection is the measure of God’s love for Jesus, the son.
God’s resurrection-love for Jesus widens the meaning of shepherd. By calling himself the good shepherd, Jesus was not merely speaking in human terms. His self-designation means he is the true and perfect guide and model of living and loving: Freely I lay down my life in order to take it up again. He desired all sharers in his life and love may come to know God, whom he called his dear Father.
Jesus reshaped shepherd to mean giver of divine life and not in any random way. Jesus shares his risen life with each of us as if each of us was the sole person in the universe. By his Spirit, the energy of his risen life, Jesus joins us to himself with intimate knowledge: I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. In Jesus you and I become children of God.
Far from belittling, children is an endearing term. Unlike the word sheep, children suggests our future is to grow in our identity as beloved by Jesus, who is beloved by God. This well describes the dynamic of the Easter mystery. It is also the lifelong task of each of us. The word the church uses for our task is “vocation.”
Pope Benedict this year has focused vocation this way: “Faith in the divine initiative--the human response.”/1/ Vocation has two dimensions, universal and particular. The universal dimension is easily lost. The universal call to holiness/2/ is the vocation of all the baptized. We seek to infuse with “religious values” all our “earthly activities.”/3/
The particular dimension applies to each one’s life path: single; married; men and women in consecrated life, who take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; and priests and bishops.
All Christians are to “stimulate our concern for cultivating this [earth]” on our pilgrimage to the “new earth” awaiting us./4/
Praying for vocations is at once universal: that all baptized into our risen Messiah and Lord may become more generous children of God, whose lives witness to the new life our risen Messiah has won for us. Praying for vocations is also particular: that each person will faithfully live as God has created each of us. Praying for vocations also requests God to grace young people to preach the message of our Good Shepherd by lives as consecrated religious or to preach it in word and sacrament so that all the activities of the faithful will be bathed in the light of the gospel.”/5/
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to feel recreated by our triune God. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Consider you life as it has been, as it is and as you desire it to be; then entrust your life to Jesus and ask that he consecrate it to his service and glory. Ask Jesus to enlighten your mind and heart so that your personal vocation may invite others to respond to the divine energy risen Jesus reveals in his church. Close by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us appreciate better what we are sent into the world to do each day.
1. His Message on the occasion of the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
2. The title of Chapter 5 of the Decree on the Church (Lumen gentium) of the Second Vatican Council. The chapter devoted itself to following Jesus in daily life.
3.The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church, 43.
4. Ibid., 39.
5. Ibid., 43.
Wiki-image by PetrusSilesius of the main portal of Berlin-Charlottenburg's Sacred Heart Church is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.