The Fourth Sunday of Easter [C]
Acts 13:14,43-52 + Revelation 7:9,14-17 + John 10:27-30
April 17, 2016
“‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’”
People often ask how best to prepare for Sunday Mass. A common recommendation is to read and meditate on, throughout the week, the Scriptures from the coming Sunday’s Mass. Sometimes people ask for a further recommendation. One suggestion is to read and meditate on the entire chapter from which the coming Sunday’s Gospel passage is taken. This would be especially helpful this Sunday.
The Scriptures for Sunday Masses follow a three-year cycle, so which Gospel passage you hear on the Fourth Sunday of Easter depends upon whether the Church is currently in Year A, B or C. However, in all three of these years, the Gospel passage on the Fourth Sunday of Easter comes from the same chapter of the Bible: the tenth chapter of John. This is not a coincidence. The three passages for this Sunday stress a common theme.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” In Jesus we have a shepherd who, as God, gave His life for all of us who as humans are mere sheep. Left to our own designs, we lead lives without lasting meaning. Only in being led by our Good Shepherd towards the Father do we find a path through this world that elevates our human life. The Good Shepherd calls each of us by name, and calls each to follow Him through one’s vocation.
One of the biggest questions, though, when it comes to the matter of a Christian discerning his or her vocation is how to discern such a thing. On “Good Shepherd Sunday” the Church reflects especially on ordination to the priesthood. Some people imagine that the “call” to Holy Orders comes through some mystical vision. While that’s certainly not outside the realm of God’s power, it’s not the manner in which God ordinarily calls men to the ordained priesthood.
There are three chief ways in which God calls a man to Holy Orders: through an individual man’s own private prayer; through the encouragement of those who know him; and through the acceptance of that call of behalf of the Church by the bishop. Each of these three has an important place in the life of the Church. The third, in fact, is indispensable. A person may claim feeling a call from God to be ordained. But only a bishop can “confirm” this call.
Regarding the second way in which a call to ordination comes about, it’s clear that the Church will not see many holy priests if ordinary Christians such as yourself do not encourage young men to consider seriously a vocation to the ordained priesthood. Your suggestion may take them by surprise. But God’s grace enables all of us as Christians to do things far beyond what we can imagine. As this year’s seminarian poster reminds us, “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies those He calls.”