Today the church celebrates the Good Shepherd Sunday and also a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. In our readings today, we are given an insight about what it entails to be a good follower or sheep and also the challenges that goes with it. In the gospel, Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd, and we his children are his sheep. As many that enter through him will be saved. This assertion from Jesus himself is an open invitation for all of us who truly desire to make salvation at the end of our earthly life. Accept this wonderful invitation today and change the narrative of your life forever. Also, today is an opportunity for us to pray for the gift of vocations in the church. The vineyard is big, but the labourers are few; let us pray today that the Lord of the vineyard, who is the Good Shepherd will send more labourers to his vineyard. We all have a role to play towards promoting the work in the vineyard of the Lord.

In the 1st reading of today, we see Peter and the other Apostles preaching to the people and inviting them to embrace the new way of life that the death and resurrection of Jesus is presenting to them. A life of renewal and amazing grace that is given by God. An invitation to change of lifestyle. Interestingly, the people were greatly touched by the message presented to them by Peter and the other Apostles, and they accepted the invitation by accepting baptism as requested by the Apostles. They made a major decision that changed the narrative of their lives. In the same way, we are all invited to accept this wonderful invitation that will bring forth renewal and transformation in our life; just like we see in the 1st reading of today. It is a call to a change of lifestyle, a life that is worthy of emulation and is truly Christian.

Accepting this invitation of change of lifestyle that is presented to us from the 1st reading of today, will make the responsorial psalm of this Sunday more meaningful to all of us. This is because, this newness of life is a call for absolute faith and trust in the risen Christ. By so doing, strengthening our resolve to embrace the difficulties and challenges that are associated with this new life in Christ that we have embraced. As seen in the 2nd reading of this Sunday. There is a price that we have to pay. This can emanate by way of persecution because of the lifestyle we have embraced. The good news is that, by so doing we will be following in the footsteps of Christ who have walked that same path while on earth. A path that is thorny, but leads to salvation at the end of our earthly pilgrimage. The challenges and difficulties that is associated with this new life that is presented to us, is small, compared to the reward that awaits us.

In the gospel reading from St. John, Jesus presents himself to us as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This assertion he exemplified in his suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. This goes to show the depth of his love for humanity. The Good Shepherd is willing and ready to give everything for the good of his sheep. The comparism made by Jesus may be as a result of the lifestyle of the religious leaders of his time. Whether the situation has changed for the better in our own time is another thing. In view of this, a very important question that emanates from today’s liturgy is, do you live like the good shepherd in your daily life or you live like a hireling? A hireling is more concerned with his personal gains, even in his dealings with the sheep that is under his care. He exploits every given opportunity for his own personal gain and he never worries himself about the comfort of his sheep.

The actions and attitude of Jesus the Good shepherd is a wakeup call for all of us who are shepherds in one way or the other; to do the needful. Let us stop living our life like hirelings, but rather emulate the self-less life of Jesus the Good Shepherd. This is very important, especially during this period of the pandemic. It is pertinent that we show love and care to people around us, as much as possible. Remember dear friends in Christ, Jesus is our sure bet. We must enter through him and be saved.

As we begin the May devotion, we pray that through the intercession of our Mother Mary, that God will intervene and bring healing to our world. Peace be with you. Amen.

Homily for the Good Shepherd Sunday/Vocation Sunday Year A, by Fr. Jude Ifezime, C.S.Sp