Friday, May 7, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B - May 9, 2021

Homily of Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B, 2021

 Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 98:1-4; Psalm 98:1-4; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

 Many Jewish Christian converts of the early Christian community believed that non-Jews and Gentiles were unworthy of becoming Christians. They lost sight of the fact that Gentiles were among the followers of Jesus when he was alive. The apostle, Simon the Zealot (the zealous one), was a Canaanite. Matthew 15:21-28 tells us about the faith of the Canaanite woman, and the faith of the Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. Then, Chapter 10 of the Acts of the Apostles begins with the vision of Cornelius (a Roman centurion), and the vision of St. Peter. The visions reveal the inclusive nature of Christianity.

 The visions played out when Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house. “Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.’ While Peter was still speaking these things, the holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God” (Acts 10:34-35, 44-46).

This is a painful reminder of past and present partiality, exclusive, and discriminatory mentalities, laws and regulations in religious and civil circles across the world. St. Peter made a powerful statement while addressing the people, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28). He continues, as we see in today’s reading, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).

 The first reading begins with the following words, “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being” (Acts 10:25-26). St. Peter’s humility is a challenge to those who arrogate themselves to ‘golden calves’ and demand others to ‘worship’ them.

 Unfortunately, too, we discharge these unholy attitudes of partiality, exclusion, and discrimination on one another in our homes, groups, churches, communities, neighborhoods, places of work, gatherings, institutions, organizations, and so on. The way out of these sins is for us to see one another with eyes of love. For this reason, St. John writes to us in the second reading, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

 The admonition continues in the gospel reading. Jesus says to us, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. … This is the commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:9 and 12-13). We have many great examples of people who have made or make various degrees of sacrifices for love of God and human beings.

 To conclude, let us call to mind the words of St. Peter, “God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.” Therefore, let us not demean anyone or people, or see anyone or group as second-rate or third-rate. Let us see each other with the eyes of love, and break down barriers and barricades of partiality, exclusion, and discrimination. By so doing, we are able to accept one another, live in peace with one another, work with one another, build up one another, give one another equal opportunity, and celebrate one another and with one another. When we say that all men and women are created equal, and that all men and women are endowed by God with equal rights, let us match up these words with sincere actions. So help us God. Amen.

 Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, April 30, 2021

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - Homily for Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B - May 2, 2021

Readings: Acts 9:26-31; 1 Jn. 3:18-24; Jn. 15:1-8

A Hard Man is Good to Find

1.     In today’s gospel Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5). Christian life must be rooted in Christ and directed by the relationship shared in and with Him. Therefore, Christians must live in such a way as to say with St. Paul “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20). To grow and live with and in Christ demands compatibility of character. The risk in organ transplant is the rejection of the foreign body by the donor body: incompatibility. If husband and wife are not compatible, that marriage has no future. In the same way without compatibility of character between Jesus and His disciples, no growth, nor fruition, or intimacy is possible. As sinful people, we need the pruning, purification and the cleansing effect of the Holy Spirit to make us compatible with sinless Jesus. We must align our priorities with Him so as to function and bear fruit as his disciples.

2.     This brings us to the first reading. Saul the persecutor who had tried to destroy the Church and dragged men and women to prison was converted on his way to Damascus. He is now preaching the same Christ that he was against. In Jerusalem, Paul’s new religion and his enthusiasm to preach Christ as the Lord is met with stiff opposition, suspicion and doubts. Was it not Paul who gave permission for Stephen to be stoned to death? How can he be trusted? He was snubbed, avoided and kept at a distance. We are told, “When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” (Acts. 9:26). How lonely Paul must have felt. Did he make a mistake? Did Christ really speak to him on that road? These thoughts must have gone through his mind. Then someone by the name of Barnabas also called Joseph came to his rescue. He was a Levite, a Cypriot by birth. The Apostles named him Barnabas meaning ‘Son of Encouragement’. He was “a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith.” (Acts 11:23). He embodied the life of early Christians.

 

3.     Barnabas did not only epitomize the early Christians life, but he was also a branch that sprung from the Divine Vine - Jesus. He lived the life of Christ and knew that to bear fruit he had to align his values, his ethics, his identity, his personality and his priorities with Christ. He came to Paul’s rescue and took charge of him. He vouched for him and became his spokesperson. One wonders how life would have been for Paul but for someone like Barnabas. We need people like Barnabas to support us, to encourage and to believe in us. We need people who see potentials in us and will not judge us from the one mistake we may have made in the past. Barnabas showed himself a real Christian in the way he treated Paul. He saw that Paul was made in the image and likeness of God, therefore, should be redeemed and not condemned. He believed in the best in others. While others saw Paul as a spy, Barnabas saw him as an asset, an instrument to bring the Gospel of Christ to the gentiles. How wonderful would our world be if we had more people like Barnabas. Those who are not afraid of people, are not suspicious and cynical, but who see themselves in everyone and tries to help others succeed. These Hard Men are good to find.

4.      According to William Barclay, “The world is largely divided into those who think the best of others and those who think the worst; and it is one of the curious facts of life that ordinarily we see our reflection in others and make them what we believe them to be. If we insist on regarding a man with suspicion, we will end by making him do suspicious things. If we insist on believing in a man, we will end by compelling him to justify that belief.” We must be like Jesus in the way we treat others, especially those who do not look, think and talk like us. Barnabas was that man. Like Jesus, he did not allow someone’s past to influence his judgement against him. A person should not be condemned forever just because he once made a mistake. In a game of baseball, the rule is: three strikes, and you are out. We can apply the same rule to the way we treat those who have wronged us, knowing that Christ tells us to make it up to seventy-seven times. (Matt. 18:22). For “If you, O Lord, should make our guilt, Lord, who would survive.” (Ps. 130:3). Never condemn someone because he had once committed an offence. There is still room for change if we give him an opportunity to do so.

5.     The early Christian community that produced a man of character like Barnabas “Were of one heart and mine, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts. 4:36-37). Their faith was rooted in Christ. Christ is the vine, and every Christian is a branch. We must be one with Christ and must grow in Him. If we do not, we become a withered, rejected branch which is dead and is good for nothing. When we are together in Christ, we bear fruit. St. John made this point in the second reading. When we get together and are united in Christ and with one another, we live a life of truth, love and peace. God relates with us in love and with love we must “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Eph. 4:32). Let us pray at this Mass that we may be Barnabas to one another. With people like Barnabas, our world will be a better place, a place where no one will be suspicious of others, where violence and hatred will give way to forgiveness, tolerance and love; where we will see the image of God in one another and so treat them as we would Christ, in love. In everything may we treat others as we would want them to treat us. For a hard man is good indeed to find. God knows we need those hard men in our lives today more than ever before. Amen.

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B - May 2, 2021

 Homily of Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B, 2021

 Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

 The first reading tells us St. Paul’s experience after his conversion. He had escaped from Damascus where the Jews wanted to kill him for preaching and “proving that [Jesus] is the Messiah” (Acts 9:20-25). He arrived in Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples, “but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:27-28).

 First, St. Paul was a notorious persecutor and murderer of Christians. When he converted, he put his past life behind him, and never allowed the guilt and shame of his past life to discourage him from answering the call of evangelization. Sometimes, God wants to do new things in our life, but we refuse to cooperate with God’s grace by letting ourselves be trapped in our ugly past life. St. Paul’s ability to break with his ugly past life challenges us to break the chains of our ugly past life and liberate ourselves from them. The word of God says in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new!” Let us embrace the new things God is doing and move forward.

 Secondly, Barnabas intervened in St. Paul’s situation and became an instrument for St. Paul’s acceptance and establishment. Let us not be like the Jews who wanted to kill St. Paul because he was no longer a member of their murderous gang, or like the disciples who refused to accept him because they were afraid of him. Perhaps, we are the ‘Barnabas’ God wants to use to help someone to have life, or to establish someone, or to make someone progress. Let us not refuse to help or be reluctant to help. St. John urges us in the second reading, “[God’s] commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23).

 Thirdly, the acceptance of St. Paul by the apostles when Barnabas brought him to them reminds us the acceptance of the prodigal son by his father when he returned (Luke 15); and teaches us to do the same. Writing from his experience, St. Paul says in Colossians 3:13, “Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any opportunity to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another.” Let no one be a stumbling block to opportunities of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, and unity.

 St. Paul is a fulfillment of today’s gospel reading. When he was outside Jesus, he was possessed by the spirits of hate, jealousy, fury, persecution, murder, and so on. But when he was grafted to Jesus, the true vine, and was pruned of his vices, he began to bear much fruit. Jesus says in the gospel, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

 In the same way, when we take ourselves away from Jesus, we unite ourselves with the Evil One, we become possessed by the Evil One’s spirits, and we become instruments of his works. But if we are united with Jesus, we bear fruits of his Spirit; which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Then, Jesus’ words become fulfilled in us: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (John 15:7-8). May we remain in him, and become fruitful, and multiply (Genesis 1:28). Amen.

 Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Fr. Michael Osatofoh Eninlejie, MSP - Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter- April 25, 2021

SUNDAY 25TH APRIL 2021

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY AND VOCATIONS SUNDAY

 Acts 4:8-12

1 John 3:1-2

 John 10:11-18

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Today the 4th Sunday of Easter, is usually known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The gospel reading is that of John 10 where Jesus proclaims himself as the good shepherd. It is also a day we pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life, that God should send people after his own heart to lead his flock.

In every human society, it is very important to have leaders, it is of more importance to have good leaders who care and are concerned for their people. Some leaders can go as far as laying down their lives for their subjects.

For us Christians, Jesus is our leader and shepherd. God has assured us through the prophet Isaiah 49:15, that even if a woman should forget her suckling child, he will never forget us.

In the gospel reading of today, Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd, and he tells us what is expected of us as shepherds. Some years ago, it was very easy to compare the love of God for us with the love of Fulani Herdsmen for their cows. The image of Fulani herdsmen today has been bastardized as they are now portrayed as thieves and kidnappers. Fulani herdsmen were known for their love for their animals, they lead them to green pastures, give them water, protect them against dangerous animals and even communicate with them. Their cows hears their voice and act accordingly. They are very close to their cows that they smell like them. This is the same care and love Jesus shows us. He wants us to trust and believe in him. We should not listen to other voices, because they are thieves and robbers who have come to feed on the sheep.

This is why St John tells us in the second reading of today that we are privileged to be called God's children  because he has lavished us with much love, including sending his son to die for us.  The parable of the lost sheep always reminds us that God does not want anyone to be lost, and that he cares for every human soul. This is why Jesus says in the gospel reading that there are other flocks which do not belong to the sheep fold. We pray for our separated brethren, that God will help them to hear the voice of the true shepherd sent by God.

In the first reading of today, we see Peter as the shepherd of the people, explain to the then that it was through the name of Jesus whom they had killed that he healed the cripple at the gate of the temple. He told them to repent of their sins and accept Jesus so as to be welcomed back into the sheep fold.

On this day therefore, we pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, that God should inspire young men and women who will be good shepherds after his own heart to continue his work of human salvation so that everyone can hear the true voice of God and come into the sheep fold. We pray for all those in formation, that God will continue to speak to them daily and mold them for his work.

We thank God that we have shepherds in the Church who are leading us back to God our father. We pray for those who are not under true shepherds, that they may hear the voice of the true shepherd today and enter the fold.

Pray for your shepherds today as well, that they may be people after the heart of Jesus.

Fr Michael Osatofoh Eninlejie, MSP

Fr. Emmanuel Megwara, MSP - Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter - April 25, 2021

DATE : 25/4/2021

 EVENT : Fourth Sunday of the Eastertide/Good Shepherd's Sunday/Vocation's Sunday

 COLOUR: White

 READINGS : Acts 4:8-12; Resp. Psalm 117:1,8-9,21-23,26,28-29; 1John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18.

 THEME: CHRIST IS A SHEPHERD IN THE TRUEST SENSE

         Greetings beloved people of God. I welcome you to "My Catholic Homily Digest". On this twenty fifth day of April, which is also the fourth Sunday of Eastertide, other words known as Good Shepherd's Sunday or Vocation's Sunday, I wish to reflect with you on the theme: " Christ Is A Shepherd In The Truest Sense". Beloved in Christ, this Sunday, we are called to reflect on the theme, "Christ, the Good Shepherd". Now, at the face value, many of us may dismiss this theme thinking that we have heard it a thousand times over. But, I wish that you journey with me today, as we unravel a new message in this age long theme. The caption, Christ the Good Shepherd, is one of those divine sayings in which  truth and love meets. The image of the Good Shepherd expresses the deepest affections, fondest musing, most docile obedience, most devoted trust, and most sacrificial love of Christ. It is a title which summed up all other titles and images of Christ as priest, prophet, king, saviour, guide, leader, master, teacher, friend, companion, and Lord.

      The image of the Good Shepherd, captions at once all the mercies, kindness, love, care, protection, providence, benevolence and discipline of God towards us (Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:12-27). It also reflects the thoughts and emotions of pity, gentleness, compassion, patience, and love, which God feels towards us. This image brings consolation to the weak, to those that have strayed, to those that are lost, to that that are afflicted, to those that feel strong, and to those that are scattered abroad. The image also has an eternal value, in that, Christ is not only the Good Shepherd to his flock on earth. Even in the heavenly glory, he will still be the chief Shepherd, and the great Shepherd of the entire sheep. Who now in a state of bliss, behold him face to face, and sees him as he really is in all his glory and splendour, as the second reading from 1John 3:1-2, tells us today.

      Beloved and fellow sheep, Christ is the eternal Good Shepherd because he merits it thus:

  1 . He is the Good Shepherd because he Owns the sheep.

         A ) By the gift of the Father to him (thine they were, and thine has given them to me)

           B ) By the creative ties with the Father (Even before the world was brought forth, I was there with the Father; and through me all things were created. Cf. John 1:3)

          C ) He Purchased us. (The blood he shed was not for his defence, but for the sake of his sheep whom he came to rescue. Cf. Heb. 13:20).

 2 . He is the good shepherd because he KNOWS the sheep

       A ) By their faces. Just like the ancient custom among Shepherd's is to ear- mark their sheep, Jesus Christ has put a mark on each of us, not on the ear, but on our forehead (Cf. Rev. 14:1).

         B ).  By their Names. Jesus knows each of us by name. Not merely as a man or a woman, but as Peter, Nnamdi, Lucy, Etta, Timi, Aisha Yusuf. And He calls us by our name.

           C ) By their situation. Jesus knows your present plight, he knows where you live, work and school (Cf. Acts 9:11). He knows your character, your personality and your limits.

 3 . He is the good shepherd because he FEEDS his sheep

         A ). He leads us to springs of still and flowing waters, to revive our drooping Spirit (Cf. Psalm 23).

         B ) He leads us to fruitful pasture to graze on rich food (Cf. Psalm 23).

  4 . Christ is the Good Shepherd because he LEADS the sheep

            A ) He leads the helpless sheep that has gone astray, just like he brings back the sinner that has wandered far from his love.

            B ). He leads the sheep of his flock gently, not from behind, searing them with lashes, but he is in front, drawing them close through the power of his love and adapting them to follow his steps.

              C ). He leads them in the way of righteousness, and from death's trap to the bliss of eternal life. As the ideal Shepherd, Jesus has gone before us, taking on himself, the death's trap meant for us, and emerged victorious. And now, he triumphantly leads us to heaven.

      Child of God, what is stopping you from alighning yourself among the flock of Christ. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, that cares for you. He loves you. He is looking out for you. He is calling out for you. He wants to lead you to heaven. Will you dispose yourself like an obedient sheep or would you rather be a black sheep of perdition. The choice is yours. As we celebrate the Good Shepherd's Sunday today, we remember to pray for all priests and religious men and women, who have dedicated their lives to become visible Shepherds of the flock of Christ on earth, that the good Lord may model and make them good shepherds after him. We also pray that Christ may raise good future Shepherds from among our young ones, that c they may have vocation to the priestly and religious life.... Amen.

Oh that today you would listen to his voice harden not your hearts (Ps.95:7-8).

 LET US PRAY : Lord Jesus, you are the good shepherd, I beg you never to abandon me to the hands of the wolves even when I stubbornly stray from your presence.....Amen

The Lord be with you....... and with your Spirit.

 May Almighty God bless you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ....Amen

 HAPPY GOOD SHEPHERD'S SUNDAY BELOVED FRIENDS

  @ Fada Emmanuel Nnamdi Megwara, MSP.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Fr. Augustine Inwang, MSP - Homily for Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B - April 25, 2021

 Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; Jn. 10:11-18 

We Are the Sheep of His Flock

1.     In many cultures of the world God is perceived as a woman – mother. Perhaps because mothers care, love and are dedicated to their children. Mothers are compassionate, forgiving and have the ability to empathize and feel for their children in ways that are difficult to describe. Mothers will be willing to sacrifice their lives for their children. I know a woman who refused to abort her baby to save her life. She died so that her child may live. The mother’s love can be likened to Christ’s love. All the attributes of the mother can fittingly describe the virtues of a good shepherd. Hence, Christ calls Himself a ‘Good Shepherd’. A good shepherd is prepared and willing to lay down his life to save others. Christ assures us of this when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13). Christ laid down his life for us because he loves us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jer. 31:3).

2.     To understand why Christ is our good shepherd, we must realize that God’s love is prior to and essential for any human value. “Love consists in this: Not that we have loved God but that he has loved us first.” (1 John 4:10). John tells us point blank, “God is love.” (John 4:16). In today’s Gospel, Jesus says of Himself: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn.10:11). The protection of the shepherd and his willingness to lay down his life for the sheep is seen, not just in women but even in animals. The maternal instinct is to guard, protect and defend those entrusted to their care. There is a story told of firefighters who were putting out the last hot spots in a forest fire. Such fires can rage with intense heat and spread quickly overtaking animals in their path. In the course of their work, a firefighter came across a mother bird, sitting on the ground, charred black in death. Why hadn’t the bird flown up to safety, the firefighter wondered to himself. Had it been sick or injured? But as he lifted the bird up, he found the reason why. Beneath the dead mother’s body were five baby chicks. The mother bird had sacrificed her life to keep her chicks safe. And that is what the Good shepherd, Christ, did for humanity on that Good Friday afternoon. He laid down his life for humanity, to save us from damnation and reconciled us to God the father. St Paul reminds us that “Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:7-8).  

3.     In calling himself a good shepherd, Jesus distinguished himself from other shepherds who are not good. “…Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather pasture sheep?” You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured…. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves…I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” (Ezek. 34:2-16). In shepherding the flock entrusted to our care, we must be like Jesus. He shows us how to take care of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7. He hears the cries of His sheep and comes to their rescue. “I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.” (Ezekiel 34:15-16). “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.” (Is. 40:11).

4.     With confidence David said, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me alone the right path for the sake of your name.” (Ps. 23:1-3). Who are our shepherds?  They are our parents, police officers, military men and women, teachers, doctors, priests. They are our leaders, spiritual and temporal. They are those placed in positions of authority over us. Their duties are to guard, defend and protect us. Anyone in a position of authority over us is our shepherd and we are the sheep of their flock. How they shepherd us matters. Hence, we demand accountability from them. That is why we hold our police officers accountable and demand that they be responsible in their policing. At the same time, we must be the kind of sheep that listens to the voice of the good shepherd and follow their lead. The shepherd must know their sheep and the sheep must know their shepherd.                                             

5.      We pray at this Mass that we may open our eyes to see the Good Shepherd who meets us at the hour of our needs. Like the sheep of his flock, let us listen to our Good Shepherd and hear Him call us by name and lead us to green pasture, to God our Father. Amen!

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.

 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B - April 25, 2021

Homily of Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B, 2021

 Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

 We have two important celebrations today: Jesus the Good Shepherd and World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

 World Day of prayer for vocations was introduced by Pope St. Paul VI in 1963 to be a special day of prayer for vocations to priestly, religious and consecrated life. This is in obedience Jesus’ instruction to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38). This instruction is even more urgent now because according to Catholic News Service, March 26, 2021, at the end of 2019, the worldwide Catholic population exceeded 1.34 billion. While the world’s population of Catholics has shown steady growth, the number of both diocesan seminarians and religious orders’ candidates for the priesthood showed a decline worldwide from 115,880 at the end of 2018 to 114,058 in 2019. Therefore, let us continue to pray for an increase in the vocations of ordained, professed, and lay ministries in the Catholic Church; for aspirants to religious and priestly life, for candidates and seminarians, and for formators in religious institutions and seminaries.

 As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we pray for our spiritual and civil shepherds; and for our parents who are our first shepherds. We, also, pray for all of us because we are all shepherds by the virtue of our responsibilities and assignments.

 In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In the seven verses of today’s gospel reading, Jesus mentions “lay down his life” five times to emphasize the importance of what he has done for us (his crucifixion and death), and what we also must do since we are shepherds in different ways and capacities.

 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” Jesus knows us, and wants us to know him. To know him means to have an intimate relationship with him. To have this intimate relationship, we must hear his voice. He says, “These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” We cannot know him if we do not hear his voice. Hearing his voice means doing what is heard.

 Jesus says that bad shepherds are the shepherds who, when they see wolves coming, they leave the sheep and run away, and wolves catch and scatter the sheep. They have no concern for the sheep.

God condemns bad shepherds in Ezekiel 34:6-8, “Woe to the shepherds… who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings, but the flock you did not pasture. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. They were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; over the entire surface of the earth my sheep were scattered. No one looked after them or searched for them. … … my sheep became plunder, … my sheep became food for wild beasts…”

 Bad shepherds are the cause of turmoil and suffering all over the world. People fleeing their homelands, dying across deserts and waters, trafficked and sold, and suffering inhuman hardships as refugees are due to bad shepherds. We pray for the fulfillment of God’s word in Ezekiel 34:10, “Look! I am coming against these shepherds. I will take my sheep out of their hand and put a stop to their shepherding my flock, so that these shepherds will no longer pasture them. I will deliver my flock from their mouths so it will not become their food.” In Matthew 9:36, at the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. We pray that God’s heart be moved with pity for our troubled world.

We are all shepherds in different ways and in different capacities by our vocations, professions, and jobs; in our homes, our church ministries, our offices, our business places, our engagements, and our responsibilities. We are invited to listen to Jesus, know him, and imitate his self-giving and self-sacrificing manner of shepherding. May we all learn from him, the good shepherd. Amen.

 Fr. Martin Eke, MSP