Saturday, May 6, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter, Year A, 07.05.2017

Acts 2:14, 36-41 / 1 Peter 2:20-25 / John 10:1-10

Around this time of the year, there is a spike in prayers. And then towards the end of the year, there will be an avalanche of prayers.

The reason for these two surges in prayers is because of exams! 

Yes, it is the exam fever time, a time when the brains of the students get heated up trying to remember the things that they were supposed to know.

And so it will be a time of fervent prayer: students will be praying; parents will be praying; grandparents will be praying; the whole clan will be praying. And of course the priests will be praying. Better still if we can leave all the praying to the priests right? It’s their job anyway.

A story goes that a student went to a priest to ask for prayers.
Student : Father, please pray for me to do well in my exams
Priest : Yes I will. And if you do well in your exams, then what?
Student : Then I will go the university
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will graduate and find a good job with a good pay
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will get married and have a family
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will work hard and have a lot of money
Priest : Then what?
Student : Then I will retire and enjoy life
Priest : Then what?
Student : …

Then what huh? Somewhere along the way, there must come a time when we have to stop and ask ourselves “Where am I going?” and “What is the meaning of my life?”

But such questions can be difficult to answer. It can even be scary to think about such questions. Because it may mean changing directions or even changing our life altogether.

But such questions cannot be addressed by looking at the mirror and searching for answers there.

We may need to look beyond, and to listen to what God is saying to us before we can think about it and decide what to do about it.

We may need someone to tell us what life is all about and what directions we need to take.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd with a loud voice, and their message was this: 
The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.

It was a straight-cut message, with no frills, but the result was amazing.

Because upon hearing this, the people were cut to the heart, and they asked: What must we do?

More than just words, the people heard the voice of God and they were ready to do something about their lives.

Yes, the voice of God was heard in the voices of Peter and the Eleven as they addressed the people. God spoke to His people, and God still speaks to us through human instruments that He has chosen and appointed.

In the gospel, Jesus says that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd, one by one he calls his own sheep, the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He calls out to us. This 4th Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday and it is also called Vocation Sunday.

The word “vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare” which means “to call”. On this Sunday, the emphasis is on the call to the priesthood and also to the religious life.

But with the vocation crisis, with seminaries and convents and even churches in other countries closing down, we wonder if the Good Shepherd had stop calling out to men and women to dedicate their lives to serve Him in the Church? Could it be that Jesus had stopped calling?

Or is it that we have stopped talking about it and shied away from talking to the young about the priesthood and the religious life?

And if we ever talk about it, it may sometimes come out in the wrong ways. Imagine if a young man comes along and says “I think I want to become a priest”, and then someone retorts “If you can become a priest, then I can become the pope!” It may sound like a joke, but that young man would probably never mention anything about the priesthood again.

Or at times, in order to discipline our children, we will say this to them: You want to be naughty, I will bring you to church and you stay with Father and you become a priest!

So it gives the impression that the priesthood is not for good boys but for naughty boys!

But that is certainly not the voice of Good Shepherd calling out to His sheep to enter into His service.

We must encourage people to think about the calling to serve the Lord, instead of just talking to them about passing exams with good grades.

Yes, we want our young to know how to make a living but we also want them to know how to live a life. We want our children to have a spiritual life. 

Yes, we must pray for more good and matured people to answer the call of Jesus. 

And we must also  remember that intercession invokes intervention.

We pray, we intercede, and God will intervene, and He will intervene through us so that we can be His voice to call out to those He has chosen.

When Peter and the Eleven spoke, the people were cut to the heart.

So too we must speak about vocations, so that in those whom Jesus has chosen, their hearts will be cut and opened for the voice of Jesus to enter.

And may they respond to His voice, so that we will know that God still speaks to us.