Acts 2:14, 36-41; 1 Pet 2:20-25; Jn 10:1-10
Once in a war torn village a missionary priest was trying to give a little comfort by serving the wounded. He came across an old woman who was severely wounded. He administered first aid to her, and hospitalized her. When she came to her senses she enquired as how she had reached there. The missionary was at her bed side with a smile. He
visited her daily and enquired about her condition. She was fascinated with the work of the young man and asked him, what prompted him to do that sort of service. He told her about the life of Christ. The woman exclaimed! “Why had I to wait for 60 years to hear of this good news?”
Today this question is addressed to each one of us by many people, where the message of Jesus has not reached. As Christians it is our duty to share the good News, the wonderful that Jesus has done for the mankind. The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles gives a summary of the whole gospel message: who Jesus is, how he saves us, and how we should respond. Peter tells the people: “You crucified your God and Messiah, but he has risen from death and offers you forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In today’s Gospel, by means of two brief parables Jesus reveals Himself as a selfless, caring “shepherd” who provides his sheep protection. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. To call someone by name is to accept his identity. But this is almost alien to the modern life style. W H Auden in his poem “The Unknown Citizen “describes how the modern man is seen in the society. The unknown citizen is identified only by a combination of letters and numbers "JS/07/M/378". His name is not important, so he is just identified as a mere number. But God’s relation to man is something different. God called man by name. He called Adam by his name. When Abraham received his call he heard the name pronounced by God. When Moses approached the burning bush, he heard his name from God. Jesus affirms that he knows his sheep by name.
To know the name of others is something great. There have always been people with a good memory for names: Napoleon knew thousands of his soldiers by name. James A. Farley claimed he knew 50,000 people by their first name. Charles Schwab knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Homestead Mill. Charles W. Eliot, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year.
Tony Campolo tells the story of a particular census taker who went to the home of a rather poor family in the mountains of West Virginia to gather information. He asked the mother how many dependents she had. She began, "Well, there is Rosie, and Billy, and Lewella, Susie, Harry, and Jeffrey. Then the census taker said, "No, ma'am, I don't need their names, I just need the numbers." To which the old woman replied, "But I don't know them by numbers. I only know them by name." In today’s gospel Jesus the good shepherd, too, says the same. “I know my sheep by their name.”
When Peter preached about that great leader, who knew his followers by name, and who led his followers by example, thousands of people accepted him as their leader. Today, if we fail to announce the message of Jesus, the question of the old lady will be repeated from several mouths, “Why had I to wait for this Good News for so long?”
This Sunday is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Today, the Church calls us to reflect on the meaning of God's call and to pray for vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life, reminding us that the entire Christian community shares the responsibility for fostering vocations. Our parish and our society can foster vocations only if we have good Christian families, where Christian values are cherished. We can have vocations only if our young men and women are given a chance to understand and experience the fundamentals of Christian life. Hence, our young men and women should be encouraged to participate in activities of the parish, and they should be inspired to accept the invitation of Jesus to continue His work.
Today priests and those who lead a consecrated life, face many challenges. It is our duty to stand by them and strengthen them with our prayers.
May Jesus bless our parish with more and more vocations.