Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally celebrated as Good Shepherd Sunday because of the gospel passage where Jesus beautifully describes himself as the Good Shepherd. Likewise, today is the 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. This celebration reminds us that our vocation is to follow the Good Shepherd according to different lifestyles, but especially through the calling to the priesthood and the religious life.

The Readings and the Gospel help us to go deeper into these celebrations. In the first reading, Peter tells the people that Jesus is both Lord and Saviour. And the only way to achieve the salvation that Jesus brings is to be baptised. In baptism, Jesus becomes our Shepherd, our leader and the Door to a new relationship with the Father as we become adopted children of God. Baptism is a privileged moment to experience Jesus as our shepherd and the door to a new life. In the Second reading, Peter in his letter tells his followers that Jesus, the good shepherd and door, sets for us an example on how to face sufferings and how to respond in tribulations.

In the gospel we have a lovely description of Jesus about himself as the shepherd and the door. The best thing to understand these attributes is to confront them on two points: First, Jesus is the door for true shepherds who want to come close to the sheep. Jesus makes a clear distinction between good and bad shepherds. The fundamental difference between the two is that the bad shepherds do not pass through the teaching, mentality and ideals of Jesus. They use another “door” to go to the sheep. For Jesus, He is the door that true shepherds need to use and pass through in order to reach the sheep. We are all shepherds: parents, teachers, government leaders, policemen, military people, church leaders and many more. We can ask ourselves which gate or door we use to reach our sheep? The gates of power, money, ambition, manipulation? Or the gate of Jesus? The mindset of Jesus? Once I had a chance to talk to a parishioner who was an ex-convict. He shared with me that he entered the “gate of money” that made him a thief and a corrupt government worker. Because of this, he was sentenced to a few years in jail. There in the prison he discovered a “door” that gave him peace. Now, he is an active church member. Secondly, Jesus is the door for the sheep. “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” If Jesus is the door, then the sheep are free to go in and out. The sheep feel at home and feel that they belong. Only the door called Jesus will lead us to safety and to life in God.

Today is Vocation Sunday. As a Vocation Director of the Xaverians here in Sierra Leone, I have come across many young men wishing to enter the “Door”, but they have  met few “good shepherds” that can lead  them to Jesus. Be one of them!

Let us remember in our prayers the youth of our country, that they may respond generously to the call of the Good Shepherd and may remain inside the “door” of Jesus Christ, and not to go to knock on other doors.

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