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Jn 10: 27-30

Easter – 4th Sunday

I was outside the room of an elderly, sick woman. I overheard the conversations inside. The relative of the lady informed her that the priest has come. “Bring him near me. I want to hold the priest. I want to feel the priest.” I was surprised at those words. When I entered, I realized that she never said “I want to see the priest,” because the woman was totally blind. She expressed her joy at my visit by holding my hand and clinging to me the whole time. I was amazed at her joy in encountering a priest!

At Easter time, the Risen Lord reveals to us his heart. There is a great commitment in the heart of Jesus for his flock. He describes himself as a shepherd deeply concerned for the safety of the flock, desiring only to give life, to protect, to guide, to unify. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, willing to suffer and die for his people. This courage to sacrifice for others is so authentic that death could not extinguish his love.

With amazing foresight, he prepared the future of his people by providing them shepherds who will represent him and serve in his name. As Catholics, we believe that these shepherds are our bishops and priests. They are not substitutes for Jesus, the Eternal Shepherd. By a special grace, even in many imperfections and with much struggle, priests make the presence and love of Jesus alive in the community.

Priests have an enormous task for the Church. But the Church too, has a vital task for the priesthood. We have a responsibility to inspire future priests, religious and missionaries for our community. This is what we mean when we say that we need to promote vocations to the priestly and religious life. How do we go about doing this?

First, we need to pray. The call to the priesthood or religious life is a divine call. In the midst of competing voices and noise around us, we must pray that the young will pause awhile and listen to the voice of the Lord. While enticed by fame, riches, success and relationships, we need to pray that we may be generous to God who is endlessly generous to us.

Secondly, we need to live our faith. Priests and religious don’t fall from the sky. They come from the most common origins – the family, the school, the community, the workplace. If in these places, God is regarded as center, then the Holy Spirit will more easily inspire people to a more total self-giving. In most surroundings today, much attention is reserved to selfish ends and goals.

By his Resurrection, Jesus is the source of our joy. Today, Jesus invites us to join him in spreading joy in our world. Priests and religious are “ministers of divine joy.” Let us pray for them and their increase in quality and number. May our prayer and life invite the grace of vocations in our lives.