Thursday, May 8, 2014
"I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved."
In the Catholic tradition this Fourth Sunday after Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also kept as a Special Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.
The Good Shepherd Discourse
God's image as Shepherd did not originate with Jesus. One finds the figure of speech strewn throughout the Old Testament like a common pebble. You will discover it in the Books of Zechariah, Isaiah, Ezechiel, and Jeremiah for openers. And don't forget the celebrated 23rd Psalm which is our Responsorial Psalm today: "The Lord is my shepherd." Matthew and Luke as well as this Sunday's John applied it often to their Leader.
But this Gospel of John opens very differently than the other Gospels. Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains how there are no infancy narratives. Right at the beginning we already meet the adult Christ and the first words he speaks are a question: “What are you searching for?” John’s whole Gospel tries to answer that, but the full answer is given only at the very end, by Jesus himself. Christ showed us the way by living God’s way.
Jesus is the faithful follower of the Father’s will to the end. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S points out that Christ alone is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. Fr. Alex McAllister says our Lord is telling us that it is only His teaching of unselfish love that will lead us to true life and happiness. And He is not content to see us barely survive.
Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says Jesus wants us to thrive. So He spreads out a true feast before us. Imagine his surprise when most of his sheep walk right by the oasis with its succulent grass and instead insist on munching the dried weeds at the edge of the desert. But that’s what most Catholics appear to do. Prayers and rituals and fervor are wonderful and necessary. But when they don't lead to real conversion from selfish tendencies to genuine concern for others, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. warns us, we ignore Christ's feast.
On Hearing The Voice That Soothes
Most of us do not like to think of ourselves as followers. But sheep are followers. The voice of the one they know, of the one they recognize, they will follow. Through Jesus, God knows each and every one of us better than we know ourselves. Fr. James Gilhooley asks us to imagine our name on the lips of God Himself in His role as the Shepherd as He calls to us. The name that our Lord confirms for each of us, Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us, finds its way down to the deepest interior of our souls. Through it He calls us to be most truly who we are, in our own self and in God.
We may misunderstand the voice of God, the shepherd, ignore it, resist it, button our ears to it, but in our moments of sane and solitary wholeness—or maybe in our times of trouble—our spirits pulse to the rhythm of that voice. It resounds within us. If we are going to be anybody's sheep, then let it be Christ's.
Jesus is the Sheep Gate
There is a door through which all of us must pass: the door of death which leads beyond this earthly life. Father Cusick says Jesus Christ has gone through this door. Having died according to the flesh, He has revealed that death has no power over Him because He is Lord of life. For those who love Him and surrender to His lordship, Christ is the gate of the sheepfold. As Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us, Jesus is the entrance into the loving security of God -- into the protection of the good shepherd.
No one comes to the Father except through him. So, let us open the door of our hearts to Jesus, Fr. Phil Bloom asks us. Repent for our sins, receive the Sacraments and put ourselves at the service of others.
May 11 is World Day of Prayer for Vocations
The Vatican has called for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to be observed this Sunday, May 11, the fourth Sunday of Easter, commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The USCCB offers many web resources to develop a vocation culture. Among these resources is the USCCB's list of "10 ways to promote religious vocations" in our parishes.
So how is parish stacking up in your efforts to develop priestly vocations? Allow us to share the stories of two parishes where the Holy Spirit is working overtime. The first one talks about how the pastoral and school staff at St. Mary Help of Christians Church worked to develop theirs into a vocations-aware parish in Aiken, S.C. The second parish success story comes from the Archdiocese of Atlanta where a simple seminarian "adoption" program sparked active discernment among parish young people.
Osama Bin Laden, Mercy & True Spirituality
Allison's husband escaped from the 68th floor of Tower One before the building collapsed on 9/11. As she contemplated the death of the man who tried to murder her beloved, she also considered Osama Bin Laden's destiny, which now is in God's hands. She took a look at Pope John Paul II's life, which mirrored Christ's in so many ways, and she learned that mercy is greater than justice. Paul Dion, STL echoed the same sentiments on the bin Laden killing in his blog, "Are you sure that you are pro-Life?"
These lead us into more soul-searching reflection. In Psalm 81, God is anxious for us to allow Him to take care of us. Sadly, we are inclined to give up too easily on God and trust in our own ability to control our situations. If we are being honest, would we admit that our faith and trust in God is primarily intellectual? Anthony Buono leads the discussion.
Last Easter, many were received into our Catholic Church. It is best we remind ourselves that it is just the beginning of their journey. Msgr. Charles Pope talks about the challenging need to more clearly instruct Catechumens and those being received into the Church about spiritual attack. Plain and simple, the devil wants to destroy the faith of those who have newly entered the Church. And we need to be sober about this.
And here's a reflection from someone who, while attending Mass this past Sunday, experienced so many distractions that it inspired this post. As she reflected on what she saw and heard, she soon realized that at some point in the past, she also has been guilty of partaking in every single one of the distractions she points out..
Here's a gem from Pope Benedict a few years back. In this discourse, he reminded us all that the Bible’s truth is found in its totality. He said one cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and say each one is literally true. Pope Benedict XVI said. “It is possible to perceive the Sacred Scriptures as the word of God” only by looking at the Bible as a whole, “a totality in which the individual elements enlighten each other and open the way to understanding.” He also spoke about the Liturgy, pointing out that it lives from a constant relationship between tradition and progress. He clarified that not infrequently tradition and progress are clumsily opposed. "In reality," he added, "the two concepts are integrated: tradition is a living reality, which because of this includes in itself the principle of development, of progress."
Mary, the Month of May & the Rosary
May is the month devoted to Mary and to praying the rosary. “Love our Lady…” This was the message Deacon Greg Kandra gleaned while working his way through St. Josemaria Escriva’s “The Way.” He said this is what jumped out at him one morning: “Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle. And the enemy will gain nothing by those perversities that seem to boil up continually within you, trying to engulf in their fragrant corruption the high ideals, those sublime commands that Christ himself has placed in your heart. Serviam! — ‘I will serve!’”
Catholic Businessmen, Smile s and Mothers Day
A few years ago, Dawn Carpenter had an interesting conversation with one of our country’s most respected business leaders about Catholic business ethics. Intrigued, he wanted the “elevator pitch” version of what Faith could do to inform business, beyond its admonishment about the rich man’s difficulties getting into heaven. Here’s what she told him — the five things that every Catholic businessperson must know.
How about making a stranger smile? Don’t wait for people to smile. Show them how. We offer you 88 ways to do it.
Fr. Phil Bloom uses this Sunday's celebration of Mothers Day and his homily as good moment to address a difficult issue: the decline in reverence for motherhood - and fatherhood. "Behold your Mother" is a wonderful Mothers Day reflection by Cheryl Dickow. While Susan Hines-Brigger asks "Mother's Day: What Does It Really Mean?" And we bring you the story of Chastity Brown who is "Happy to be celebrating my first Mother's Day." Finally just in case you haven't lifted a finger in preparation for Sunday's celebration, "Planning ahead for Mother’s Day" offers to help make the occasion delightful, fun and relaxing.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Happy Mothers Day to all mothers. I love you, mom!
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Should Christians perform the sign of the cross?
FEATURED BLOG: Five Things Every Catholic Businessperson Must Know
PASTORAL HISPANA: Escuchar la voz del Buen Pastor
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