Thursday, April 26, 2012

"I am the good shepherd."

We call this Sunday - April 29, 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday and we traditionally use this commemoration to speak particularly about vocations to the priesthood. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

The Good Shepherd

There's a practice among shepherds in Israel at the time of Jesus that needs to be understood in order to appreciate what Jesus says about God as the Good Shepherd. Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains that sometimes very early on in the life of a lamb, if a shepherd senses that this particular lamb is going to be a congenital stray, he deliberately breaks its leg so that he has to carry it until its leg is healed. By that time, the lamb becomes so attached to the shepherd that it never strays again. And sometimes such lambs still stray.

To remind us of the Lord’s concern for each one of us, the Fourth Sunday of Easter always gives us the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. No matter how many times we flee from the Him, Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB reminds us, Jesus is always willing to come after us once again and give His life for us.

And "He saves us from our sins." When we come upon this expression, we're tempted to limit this to something like “I can go to heaven because of the Blood of Jesus.” And that is true. But there is so much more. Fr. Joseph Pellegrinoso explains that it means we luxuriate in the Presence of Jesus Christ. We want to remain in this Presence.

Concern for Others

Jesus also compares the good shepherd to the mere hired hand in the Gospel. But what is wrong with just working for hire? Fr. John Foley, S. J. imagines that a lot of us are like this out of necessity. Ponder this: Why can’t we work simply for gain?

Easter celebrates God’s extravagant giving of Himself . And with Him we also celebrate our calling to becomie our true selves by being gifts for one another. For how can we be true followers of the Good Shepherd,  Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. asks, unless we shepherd one another?

This concern for others will create in us that wonderful sense of "knowing" Jesus and being "known" by him, Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. preaches. Sunday's readings therefore invite us to ask for forgiveness for the times we have not responded to those for whom we care, and ask for the grace to be good shepherds. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tells us to therefore fix our eyes anew on the Good Shepherd who knows that other sheep not of this fold are not lost sheep, but His sheep.

The Most Inclusive Religion

What really ticked off the ancient Romans still ticks people off today—Christians have the “arrogance” to claim that Jesus is the only savior. This Sunday's readings not only back this idea plus the even more offensive idea that God wants only one church, but also accounts for the fact that both truth and godly people are to be found outside the visible boundaries of the Church. How to put these ideas together? Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. explains.

The Church, in union with Peter the rock throughout the world, is the gate through which all men go to eternal life as Father Cusick explains. But in the Gospel Jesus also states, "I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock, one shepherd." Jesus wants everyone - and so do we. Because of Jesus, adds Fr. Phil Bloom, we belong to the most inclusive religion -- reaching not only the most remote corner of the globe, but also the most remote corner of the human heart.

Which brings us to the one most monumental mission of the Catholic Church in the next millennium. Fr John McCloskey says that will be to recover our lost Catholic sheep and help them to "revert." Last week we also brought you Fr. Robert Barron's "Why Catholics Leave the Church and What Can Be Done About It." We bring it back this week because it is quite relevant to these discussions.

Let Us Pray for Vocations

Sunday is National Day of Prayer for Vocations. Fr. Rich Lifrak, SSCC says this is a day to appreciate these shepherds, these priests, these brothers, these religious sisters we find on this earth and to pray for more servant-leaders to arise, not only for our sake, but for the sake of our children and our children’s children.

Why does a young man consider the priesthood? Fr. Michael Simone talks about the Diocese of Wichita. It's an amazing Diocese of only 121,000 but has 46 seminarians. Joseph Pronechen also shares the experience of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, S.C., a vocations-aware parish where the Holy Spirit is working overtime.

So, how can our Church win the hearts of young men? Anthony Esolen says if you are going to command the respect of young Catholic men, you must fight for theological truth. And, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS advises, we also must ask ourselves whether our very own parishes are cooperating with God in His intention to call people from among us to ministry in the Church. Do we transmit this call to those of our parish we think might be suitable candidates? Or do we say just say nothing and stay quiet out of a false shyness?

And we can't talk about vocations and not discuss the Diaconate. For more than a millennium, Latin Catholics saw an overwhelmingly celibate corps of ordained ministers. And for the last 40 years a new pattern has emerged that includes deacons who are both ordained and married. It is not surprising that confusion persists over the “double vocational sacramentality” of a married deacon.

Catholic Social Teaching

In this week's National Catholic Register Congressman Paul Ryan, a Catholic, takes up the topic of how Catholic Social teaching can guide our discussion on public policy. Msgr. Charles Pope presents some excerpts of the Congressman’s reflections and add a few of his own.

Continuing with his reflection on prayer in the early life of the Church, Benedict XVI this week at the Vatican commented on the apostles' discernment as they faced the problem of finding time to preach and serve. Sandro Magister reports that the Pope also explained how to respond to the persecutions that are still hitting Christians today. In the same way as the apostles. Without fear, without revenge. With freedom, courage, prayer.

Priests in Combat & CIMA

Fr. Kyle Schnippel was the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati when he heard this story. In one Chaplain Training School, a Marine General gave a pep talk. One of the Protestant Chaplains raised his hand to ask a question, "Sir, what is your advice as to what we should do during open combat?" The General, in a moment of political incorrectness, asked the new chaplains if there were any priests among them. Four Catholic priests raised their hands. One man also raised his hand and said: "I'm an Episcopalian priest." He responded back: "No, I meant a Real Priest!" It made me chuckel so I thought I'd share it with you all.

Finally, if you want to be see how brightly God's light shines today in Hollywood, join us this Sunday for the annual Catholics in Media Awards (CIMA) at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Film and TV projects that explore the human spirit and extol Christian values will be honored. "Emilio Estevez's movie "The Way" is one of them. Hollywood celebrities who share our Catholic faith will also be in attendance. Ticket information can be found here.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief
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