29th April. 4th Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12. The crippled man had been cured, Peter tells the people, not through any power of Peter’s but by the power of the risen Jesus. Only by him can we be saved.
1 Jn 3:1-2. Even in our present life, God has made us his children, our spirit alive with his grace. He will do even greater things for us, when we shall see him as he is.
Jn 10:11-18. Jesus cares for his followers like a good shepherd who, unlike the hireling, is ready to give his life for his sheep. The other side of this is that the disciple should listen to the shepherd’s voice and guidance.
Theme: For too long we restricted the notion of “practising Catholic” to attending Sunday Mass. “Practice” is a much wider concept; it is the quality of the service we provide in our daily lives.
The Bonding Business
A baby cockatiel (new to our community) has formed a singular bond with our most senior member. He instantly recognizes her voice and footsteps. When she is near, Rhondi feels at home, stretches his wings, wanders about the floor and tilts his neck for an affectionate caress. However, if someone else slips in, Rhondi is on the alert. His beak widens and he gives a fledgling tweet for help. Rhondi instinctively knows that no one has quite the same touch as the one with whom he has bonded.
Throughout much of our lives, we are in the business of strengthening bonds. Whether it is with family, friends, business or sporting partners, when we are bonded to something or someone, an instinctive feeling of being at home grows when we are bonded. We can relax and stretch a bit and enjoy a space of freedom. Contrary to what we usually mean when we talk about other sorts of bonds, these affective ones are the sort we require and desire.
Each Sunday when we gather for the Eucharist, we could say that we are in the strengthening of bonds business – both with Jesus and each other. Jesus, the good shepherd, knows instinctively how to recognize our voices and footsteps. He’s had first hand experience and knows about the bonding business.
Today is Vocations Sunday. In the past we tended to restrict the term “vocation” to the priesthood and the religious life. Yet, everyone in the church has a vocation, and, today, we are invited to reflect a little on the different ways in which we have each been given a vocation. Each of us is called by God. We all find ourselves standing before the call of God. The theme that the Pope has chosen for this Vocation Sunday is “vocation to service.” Each one of us, in different ways, has been given the vocation to service. In his message for this Vocations Sunday the Pope reminds us that Jesus is the perfect model of the “servant.” He is the one who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. In the words of the gospel reading this morning, he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his flock. All that he received from God he gave to others, he gave for others. This is at the heart of our own vocation to service too. All that we have and all that we are we have received from God, and we are called to place what we have received at the service of others.
Worthwhile Service is possible for everyone, through gestures that seem small, but are in reality great, if they are animated by a sincere love. The ways by which we live our vocation to service can be quiet and unremarkable. We give something of ourselves in service to someone – maybe a listening ear, a word of encouragement, a small gesture of some kind, what the gospel calls “just a cup of cold water.” Service is not in terms only of the big commitment, the huge undertaking or task. The excellent can easily become the enemy of the good, if we undervalue the services we already offer, simply because they seem so little, no more than the proverbial drop in the ocean. Yet, the drop in the ocean, or the cup of cold water, can be precious in the Lord’s eyes.
So much of life is lived on the small stage, in the space between my own self and one other person or a small number of other people. It is in that relatively small space that most of our vocation to service is to be lived. The way we live out our vocation to service in that space will not make headlines, and may never become known beyond a small circle. Yet, as the Pope says in his message, when interpersonal relationships are inspired by mutual service a new world is created.
The call to serve goes hand in hand with the call to receive loving service in return. It is in receiving the Lord’s service that we are enabled to live out our own vocation to serve others. We can find it difficult to receive the Lord’s service. Like Peter at the Last Supper we can resist our Lord’s efforts to serve us, “you will never wash my feet.” Yet if our service is to be Christ-like it can only flow from allowing ourselves to be served by the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us, and who goes on giving us the gift of himself. We need to keep on learning how to receive that gift that he makes to us. One of the ways we receive that gift is by our celebration of the Eucharist. We come to Mass with open hearts to receive the Lord’s loving service, our Lord’s gift of himself. “This is my body. Take and eat.” In taking the Lord’s gift, we allow ourselves to be served by him, and we are thereby enabled to live out our vocation to serve him as he has served us, to serve him in others as he has served us through others.
The call to service is not confined to a certain period or to a certain age category. It is an enduring call throughout our lives. Across the years we are constantly discovering new ways of responding to that call. Many people discover new and exciting ways of responding to the Lord’s call to service in the latter half of life. There is always a new step to be taken, no matter where we are on life’s journey.
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.
This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Second Reading: First Epistle of St. John 3:1-2
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
Gospel: John 10:11-18
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”