4th SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Do we have a familiarity with the voice of the Good Shepherd in our lives? Have you ever longed to hear the voice of someone who knows you by name and loves you, who can make things alright, who can guard you and show the way? Jesus says he is that someone. When Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls us to a commitment of single, married, consecrated or ordained life have we prepared ourselves to respond? Are we prepared to continue that response every day of our lives?
We know that all vocations flow from baptism. We are firstly called to holiness and service. This call is then lived as a single, married, ordained or consecrated person.
A document of the Church states: “The vocational reality of the Church calls for a deep respect for the complementarity and interdependence of all Church vocations. Because the Church is at once community and communion of vocations, all its members need to be concerned about and committed to the flowering of all vocations in the Church, and not merely their own.” Ultimately, a vocation is not defined by “doing” but rather by “being.” We are called to live our lives in a generous response to the One who gave us life.
I am a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. When I was growing up, we were served by the Oblates in my parish in FortSt. John. They were good dedicated men who served generously and joyfully. Each had their own character faults as well as strengths. Over an expanse of 15 years, one I remember was an alcoholic, three left the ministry. (Two of who married and the other still remains as a single man). Others came to be part of my life in various degrees. Each in his own way was trying to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a follower of St. Eugene.
What I do remember is the warmth, kindness, and dedication of the people of the parish and the priests who served there. I’m not sure that the priests played the most important role in my vocation; my family and the people of the parish played the most crucial part in the development of my priestly and religious vocation.
I was raised in an environment, among so many good people, especially my mother, who were devoted to the faith. It was a tremendously formative experience not just for me but for every member of my family in their own response to the voice of the shepherd. Every one of my siblings, in a family of eight, is still active in our church community. To see around me people praying in the pews, serving on the altar and singing in the choir; to see ordinary people giving up their time to build up the Church and care for even it’s material needs was adequate testimony to how much they valued the faith they professed.
This is the living community of the Church. This is how the faith is handed on, not so much by the preaching of sermons but the living sermon of our lives of faith celebrated in the communal gathering of the Eucharist. Each person is vital; each person is a living part of the Body of Christ here on earth; each person giving an example to the next generation that being part of the Church and helping to shape the world in which we live is the most important thing they do.
It is in this faith community that we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd who is leading us to green pastures where our hunger will be satisfied and our thirst quenched. But this is a journey of life, not completely satisfied at any particular moment of life. It is the goal of preaching the Good News!
Living is growing. Living is moving, moving freely by choice and action, from being limited, materially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, into self transcendence. It comes down to moving from desires to satisfaction, and the process is what is thrilling. Coming to a well of cool water as a long walk is finally ending. Going to your grandparents for Thanksgiving, getting there, reveling in their warm, welcoming embrace, and then moving forward to delicious foods, memories, laughs and comfort. Getting through a long wait to finally become a teenager. Getting through years of college. Raising a family. Becoming a good, magnanimous, loving person.
God gives us the means to decide and act upon on a whole hierarchy of desires which He has placed within us. They make up the fuel moving us to pursue what is lacking -- to search for it, go after it, and find it. Food. Love. Intimacy. New experiences, knowledge, and understanding. Safety and security. Companionship and community.
Our bodies and souls, full of desires for these things, testify that we long for fullness of life. Along the way, we have moments when we taste it, not to the full, but the taste is real and it satisfies—for the moment. But we always seem to hunger for more.
Sometimes we seek and go after momentary satisfactions. Sometimes we go after them according to what we think is more fulfilling, and we plan accordingly. Sometimes we recognize the need to discern and pray – sometimes in solitude, sometimes with others – and then decide and try to live accordingly. To hear the voice of the Shepherd, our vocation.
Underneath all our desires, mingling with them and under girding them, is the desire for God. Life is sorting out and ordering all our other desires to the one that is deepest and most passionate, the one that gives ultimate meaning and relevance to all the rest. We sometimes know it. At other times are unaware of it, but what we want ultimately is a loving relationship with God and through that, a loving relationship with everyone else.
God is the only one who can slake our deepest thirst, feed our deepest hunger, and satisfy our desires to the full. We want God’s company, God’s protection, God’s love. We want intimacy with the one who gives us our very life, with all its desires.
Perhaps we need not worry about inspiring young people to be priests or religious; they will come along somehow or other. Let us concentrate on the next generation in our Church; concentrate on handing on the faith to all the young people who live among us. Be families and individuals of faith who demonstrate to the youth that the teaching of Christ, the sacraments and the support of the Christian community are treasures in our lives!