Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Second Sunday of Easter—18 April A.D. 2010

On Vocations

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text of Today's Mass]
[Latin Text of Today's Mass]

    In today's Gospel our Lord speaks of Himself as “the Good Shepherd,” distinguishing Himself from the “hireling” who has no personal interest in the sheep.  The Good Shepherd has a personal concern for the sheep;  they are His, and He has cared for them since birth, He can distinguish one from another, and has a name for each one of them.  Obviously, this “Good Shepherd” is a metaphor for God who created us, conserves us in existence, and provides for each one of us personally.

    The Good Shepherd is a metaphor for Jesus Christ, Himself.  It is only by following the teachings and example of our Lord that we can make our way through the world, escaping the grasp of the wolf. and the serpent, and the roaring lion.  In saying that “I know mine, and mine know Me,” our Lord is asking that we make the effort to know Him, to love Him and to follow Him.  The job of the shepherd is far easier when the sheep observe him and follow him, instead of running off in random directions.  With the sheep that is instinctive—it may be something that we humans gain only through practice.

    In a lesser sense, this metaphor of the Good Shepherd can also be applied to all of the good priests and religious who follow our Lord faithfully, trying to maintain the spiritual welfare of His flock.  Our Lord alluded to these priests and religious when He spoke of the other sheep that must be brought into His fold, for the Church was not to be confined to the relatively small number of souls whom Christ would meet personally during the few years of His public ministry.  Indeed, His Church was intended to span the oceans, and the thousands of years.  And this work would require a veritable army of men and women devoted to His service.

    On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, He offered Himself up in sacrifice.  As God and man He was the perfect priest, for that is the essential function of a priest; to mediate between man and God.  As God, He was the perfect victim, the only offering worth enough to pay the price of man's sins.

    On Holy Thursday He began this vast army of His by allowing His Apostles to share in His priesthood.  From that day, until eternity, they would be “other Christs,” acting in His stead to renew that Paschal Sacrifice throughout time and in every place.  They would represent Him, sharing in His priesthood, and to some degree in His victim‑hood.  All of His apostles, except John, would die as martyrs—as would many, many, more upon whom they laid hands in order to replace themselves.

    Over the years they would communicate the fullness of Jesus’ priesthood to those whom we call bishops.  Many more would assist the bishops, being given the power to offer the Holy Sacrifice, to forgive sins, and to anoint the sick.  These simple priests, in turn, might be assisted by deacons; first to do the charitable works of the Church, to chant the Gospel at Mass, and then to confer some of the Sacraments in the absence of the priest—marriage, baptism, and occasionally Holy Communion.  Bishop, Priest, and Deacon all received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, each in their respective degree.

    Later on, Subdeacons would be ordained, to care for the things of the Altar; the sacred vessels, and linens, and vestments; and to chant the Epistles at Mass.  Other men would be ordained Acolytes to serve the priest at the Altar of Sacrifice.  There would be Exorcists to banish the devil and all of his works;  Lectors to read the lessons from the Old Testament;  and men known as Porters, who would quite literally stand guard at the doors of the church.

    In modern times, each of the lower orders have been thought of as stages in the advancement of a man who was becoming a priest.  But in the early Church they were often lifetime vocations.  And Church history is filled with accounts of martyrdom from all of the ranks of the clergy.

    And lest anyone think that Christ's vast army of “Good Shepherds” included only men, let me be quick to say that many women followed as well.  If the men of the priesthood were “other Christs,” then we might call these holy women “other Marys.”  For just as Jesus the “new Adam” had His representatives, Mary the “new Eve” had hers in working out the salvation of fallen mankind.  The Sacred Scriptures make it abundantly clear that such women followed the apostles, tending to their material needs.  And in several places, Saint Paul speaks of women consecrating their virginity or their widowhood to Christ—perhaps for the first time in the ancient world recognizing the value and dignity of a woman apart from her husband.

    In a thousand ways, these holy women carried out the work of Mary, imitating her chastity, her humility, her charity, and her long term perseverance.  In cities and towns, in convents and hermitages, they cooked and cleaned, taught school and ran hospitals—and above all they prayed.

    So, our Lord has had His good shepherds and good shepherdesses    and hopefully always will.  He has had His share of hirelings too    unfortunate, but we have His assurance that the good ones will keep things going until the end.

    But please bear in mind that these “other Christs” and “other Marys” come from among people just like yourselves.  Vocations to the religious life can come only from you, or your children, or your grandchildren.  Now, for whatever reason, it may not be possible for you as an individual to have a religious vocation—but please don't ever forget to pray for vocations.  Pray for good shepherds, and not for hirelings.  For there are many other sheep “out there” who need to hear our Lord's voice; to be gathered into the one fold of the Good Shepherd.



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