Tag Archives: Good Shepherd

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

April 15, 2016

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GoodShepherd1Good Shepherd Sunday is the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  This custom began in 1963.  It is a day set aside to pray for vocations to the priesthood and the permanent diaconate, as well as to the consecrated life, the vocation of priest, brother, or sister within a religious order that observes the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Sheep without shepherds.  Jesus was distraught over the dismal quality of spiritual leadership during his time.  When he looked out over the people, “his heart was moved for pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36).  So Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send laborers for his harvest” (Mt 9:37; see Lk 10:2).

The laborers are few.  The number of priests and religious has declined, there is a shortage, and there is a great need.  Bishops are anxious because there are not enough priests to staff the parishes in their dioceses.  Parishioners are anxious because parishes with multiple priests have been reduced, small parishes have been combined, and some parishes have gone without a priest.  Priests are anxious because more duties have fallen on their shoulders.

Ask the master.  Jesus told his disciples to pray for vocations, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Mt 7:7), and he reassured them, “For everyone who asks, receives” (Mt 7:8), and, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt 21:22).

Pray for vocations.  Prayer should be offered by the Church at its liturgies, and this can be easily done with a petition in the General Intercessions or a special prayer offered by the congregation after Holy Communion.  A prayer for vocations can be offered before council, staff, faculty, and committee meetings.  Vocation prayer cards can be placed on the inside cover of hymnals, in the pews, on tables at the entrances, and in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel.

Family prayer.  It is also extremely important for families to pray at home together for vocations.  Parents who pray for vocations encourage their own children to consider such a calling, and children who are reminded regularly about service to the Church are more likely to keep an open mind, be better able to hear the call, and be more inclined to respond favorably.

Priests, deacons, and religious, and prayer.  It may seem obvious, but those who have accepted a religious vocation should pray for vocations.  It is a sad phenomenon that some priests and religious have grown disenchanted with their own vocations, their religious superiors, their diocese or religious institute, or the Church, and do not pray for vocations and do not invite others to consider one.  Statistically, over eighty percent of newly ordained priests report that a major element of their call was the personal invitation of a priest, but surveys of priests reveal that only thirty percent offer invitations.  Parishioners should pray that their priests and religious would be more positively disposed and actively engaged in vocation promotion.

Once is not enough.  The World Day of Prayer is a single day, and while it is important to prayer for vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday, it is important to prayer for vocations on other Sundays and weekdays, too.  It is tremendously important to pray for vocations regularly.

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What makes Jesus, The Good Shepherd, good?

April 15, 2016

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GoodShepherd2Good vs. Bad.  The Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday.  It is important to know the difference between a good and bad shepherd, and both Jesus in the Good Shepherd Discourse (Jn 10:1-21) and God through the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 34:1-10) highlight the differences.

Bad shepherds work for money.  Bad shepherds put in their time to get paid, but they really do not care about the sheep.  It is all about the money and not about the sheep.

Bad shepherds do not pay attention or listen.  Bad shepherds do not spend quality time with their sheep.  They do not learn the names of their sheep, nor do they get to know their individual problems or concerns, nor do they offer personalized help and advice.  Then, when it comes time to lead, the sheep do not listen or follow because there is no relationship or trust.

Bad shepherds put themselves ahead of their sheep.  Bad shepherds are more interested in their own pursuits than in the needs of their sheep.  In times of crisis when the sheep are under attack, whether it is from the outside, such as wild predatory animals or thieves, or from the inside, such as a corrupt or evil shepherd, a bad shepherd is not willing to sacrifice or suffer on behalf of the sheep, and instead of battling the evil threat, the bad shepherd sits by idly and does nothing, withdraws, resigns, or flees.

Bad shepherds take advantage of their sheep.  The sheep produce the wool; the bad shepherds wear fancy clothes.  The sheep produce mutton; the bad shepherds dine in elegance.  The goats produce milk; the bad shepherds drink fine wines.  The affluence of bad shepherds is at the expense of their own flock.

Bad shepherds are controlling and harsh.  Bad shepherds are authoritarian.  Their rule is top-down.  They do not take advice.  They are unconcerned about the input, opinions or feelings of others.  They are heavy-handed and mean-spirited.

Bad shepherds do not put in extra effort.  Every flock has sheep that need special care.  Some are weak, others are sick, and a few wander off.  Bad shepherds are unwilling to put in extra time or go the extra mile.  Sheep in distress are left to fend for themselves, and vulnerable and defenseless, their plight often goes from bad to worse, and bad shepherds do not care.

The Good Shepherd.  Jesus is good, and there are many factors that make him good.  His primary concern always is his sheep.  For Jesus, it is never about him, the money, a high lifestyle, an influential position, or power.  He has a special concern for each and every sheep, particularly those who are troubled.  He is present.  He listens.  He is strong, yet humble and gentle.  He upholds the truth, yet he is kind and compassionate.  He lived simply. He came to serve.  He emptied himself.  He was willing to suffer and lay down his life for his sheep.

Good Shepherd Ministry.  Parents are shepherds for their children, teachers for their students, coaches for their athletes, managers for their workers, civil officials for their citizens, and priests for their parishioners.  Anyone in a position of leadership should avoid the pitfalls of the bad shepherds and pattern themselves on Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

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