The Fourth Sunday of Easter we traditionally celebrate as Good Shepherd or Vocations Sunday. This is because in the Gospel of the day (from St. John’s Gospel), Jesus speaks of himself as the Shepherd who is prepared to lay down his life for his sheep.
In 2023 we celebrate the 60th World Day of Prayer for Vocations which was first instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1964. This year the theme will be “Vocations: grace and mission”. The purpose of World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publicly fulfill the Lord's instruction to, "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2).
In his Message for the World Day of Vocations, the Holy Father describes each calling as a vocational “symphony”, with every vocation united yet distinct, in harmony and joined together in “going forth” to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God." He describes how Christ is able to see our true calling through the lens of love, emphasizing that each human person is chosen by God, “created by love, for love, and with love, and made for love.”
Pope Francis explains that God’s call “tends to make itself known gradually....and one that calls for a response on our part. God calls us in love and we, in turn, respond to Him in love": The gradual call is a theme that often presents itself in the vocation stories of our priests and seminarians. He goes on to explain that "Vocation is “the interplay between divine choice and human freedom.”
The Holy Father also points out that there is no vocation without mission, exhorting the baptised to see their whole lives as a mission and the reason why they are in the world. He explains:
"This missionary activity does not arise simply from our own abilities, plans and projects, nor from our sheer willpower or our efforts to practice the virtues; it is the result of a profound experience in the company of Jesus"
The Church is committed to spreading that love of God to all others, in a wide variety of ways, so that His kingdom may come. This includes "the testimony of consecrated women and men who are completely committed to God for the sake of their brothers and sisters as a prophetic sign of the kingdom of God, and in ordained ministers – deacons, priests and bishops – placed at the service of preaching, prayer and fostering the communion of the holy People of God". Ultimately, we are called to serve and not to be served, but to do so with hearts on fire for love of the Lord, just as the two disciples were on the road to Emmaus.
Vocations Sunday Gospel
In the Gospel of Vocations Sunday we hear that the Good Shepherd - Jesus- knows his sheep, and they know him, recognising his voice, and fleeing from strangers. He affirms our belonging to the family of God: like the sheep, once we are part of his fold, we cannot be lost or stolen, since no-one can cheat God, and Jesus is one with God.
Evangelisation is at the core of the Church’s mission, so that we may all be ‘one flock’ with ‘one Shepherd’. As disciples of Jesus, we are all able to give witness to the generous love of our Father in heaven. This love is given willingly through the sacrifice of his Son, which which is perpetuated in the ministry of our bishops and priests, and which we remember at each Mass.
Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A) John 10:1-10‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them. So Jesus spoke to them again:‘I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’Jesus said: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father. The Father and I are one.’
How can I support Vocations?
In many dioceses, Good Shepherd Sunday is an opportunity to pray for vocations, to
encourage those who might be considering ordained or religious life, and for each of us to ask ourselves whether the Lord might be calling us to do some definite service for him. Find out more by exploring the reading the vocations testimonies of our newly ordained clergy.
On this day, the Archdiocese asks parishioners to
- PRAY for those who have answered the Lord's call, as well as those seeking to be ordained or consecrated, and for an increase in future vocations.
- ENCOURAGE those who might have a calling to ordained or consecrated life to explore the idea and find out more.
- DONATE towards the ecclesiastical formation and training of our diocesan seminarians today, through a financial gift to the Priests Training Fund.
Prayer for Vocations
God our Loving Father,
you called me by name through the sacrament of Baptism to holiness.
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit,
you made me the temple of the Holy Spirit.
are you calling me to be a priest,
religious, consecrated, married or single?
Grant me the grace to respond to the calling
‘Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all the nations.’
Guide me in every step I take in life
and lead me in every decision I make in responding to your call.
Make me and mold me into the living image of Christ your Son,
who was ever close to those in need.
I make this prayer through Christ our Lord,
Courtesy of the National Vocations Office