May 8th, 2022

Statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd

‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.

I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life’.

 The 4th Sunday of Easter

Today, on Good Shepherd’s Sunday we celebrate the Day of Prayer for Vocations. We dedicate this day, in particular, to pray for new seminarians and priests. We are all aware of how much we need this day and this particular intention, and how important this intention is for our Diocese. For many years we have been facing a crisis in regard to vocations to the priesthood in this country, and in many other countries. The number of seminarians and young priests is decreasing from year to year, which does not fill us with optimism when we think of the future of the Church. I noticed that during the pandemic, many parishioners realized how much they missed the church and community. I know that even people who didn’t practice and didn’t attend church often, began to understand the importance of receiving the Eucharist and many other sacraments. There are still many people in our parish who feel afraid and don’t feel confident enough to return to the church.

In Friday’s Gospel we heard Jesus saying about himself: ‘I am the living bread… Anyone who eats this bread will live forever’. Do we need any other incentive than this? I don’t think so. We have to receive Holy Communion – at least spiritually – if we want to live forever with God, who is our purpose and destiny. But what we need to remember is that there is no Eucharist without priests, and there is no Holy Mass without priests.

We are in the beautiful month of May, a month dedicated to Our Lady. In many countries people have a great devotion to Our Lady. During this time, they say the Rosary or the Litany of Loretto. Let us take the rosary in our hands and pray through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, that the Good Shepherd and the Lord of the harvest may send out new labourers into his fields. We really need new courageous priests, spiritual leaders, who will show us what is truly important in our lives and how great is God’s love for us. We need good shepherds who like St Paul in today’s first reading will proclaim the Word of God without fear. We need more witnesses who would answer the Lord’s call that we heard in that same reading: ‘I have made you a light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth’. We are invited to pray for new vocations to the priesthood. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and inspire many young hearts and minds and give them courage to say ‘Yes’ to God’s will. I believe there are many people who carry within them the gift of vocation, however for some reason they are unable to say ‘Yes’ to God and enjoy His gift. It might be because of lack of courage, or a lack of good example of the priesthood. Or maybe because of various scandals in the Church publicized in the media, or maybe due to a false and wrong image of priests presented on television and on the Internet. Or perhaps a fear of a lifelong commitment stops them from entering a seminary. It might be because of discouragement from parents or other family members or simply the noise of our modern world preventing them hearing the Lord’s gentle invitation: ‘Come and follow me, become a light of the nations’. Our Lord is calling us to overcome any fears, and joyfully offer our lives in the service of the Kingdom of God. He invites us to trust him, not only in the context of a vocation to the priesthood, but in every struggle connected to the parenthood and family life.

In many countries Mother’s Day is celebrated today. Let us recognize the vocation of motherhood as well, and let us remember how precious their vocation is for the Church and for the world. Without them and without their sacrifice and prayers there would be no priests around us. No matter what we go through in our life: financial problems, fear of war, sickness and uncertainty. God wants us to trust him. Jesus Christ reassures us that He wants us to have confidence in His divine providence. He wants us to remember that like a good shepherd, He takes care of us all. We are His beloved sheep, and He knows us by name. We read in today’s Gospel: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life’. He offers us eternal life because he loves us, and wants us to participate in his eternal glory. Let us listen to His voice as He leads us in our earthly journey towards the heavenly pastures.