Appointed to be read aloud at all weekend Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the weekend of 6/7 May 2017
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Scripture readings in today’s Mass speak of God’s care for us, drawing on the language and imagery of a shepherd watching over his sheep. And our responsorial psalm is the familiar and much-loved psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd. With good reason, therefore, this Fourth Sunday of Easter is called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, and that Good Shepherd is Christ the Lord. We recall during these days of Eastertide that He became our Shepherd through the shedding of His blood on the cross and by His glorious resurrection to new and eternal life on Easter day.
The Lord speaks in the gospel of a shepherd who knows his sheep personally and calls each one of them by name. It is a wonderfully reassuring thought that Christ knows each of us individually and, in the manner of a true shepherd, feeds and protects us, and wants only what is best for us. In fact, He has proved the extent of His love by laying down His life for us. His closing words in today’s gospel say it all, I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. We praise and give heartfelt thanks to God our Father for the gift of His Son as our Good Shepherd.
Christ continues His ministry as Shepherd on earth in a particular way through the sacramental life of the Church. As a shepherd seeks out the most nourishing pasture for his sheep, so Christ nourishes us with the most sacred food of His body and blood in the holy Eucharist. Beginning with baptism, the other sacraments which we receive on our faith journey through life are grace-filled encounters with our loving Shepherd, until we finally see and meet Him face to face in eternity. We pray therefore in this Mass that we may never wander or stray from the rich and true pastures of our one Good Shepherd.
Just as Christ chose Peter and his companions who would continue His work of shepherding, so in every age He needs other shepherds to assist Him in tending His flock. And it is the same in our time. The Church worldwide, and the Diocese of Lancaster, prays today for priestly shepherds to channel and make available the graces won by Christ’s redemption.
My dear people, please help to sow the seed of a priestly vocation in someone you know – approach and encourage them. Join me in obedience to the Lord’s command and pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send priestly labourers into His vineyard. Let our faith not fail us, and be convinced that the Lord will not be remiss in providing priestly shepherds for His people who are so precious to Him, and which He has redeemed by His own blood.
To those young men (and older) who sense the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, calling you to service of Christ and His Church, I say this: be open to that call, pray and take the risk. Be a part of the Mission of this Diocese as a Priest. You are needed by the whole of our Diocesan Family and can be assured of the prayers and support of all.
Commending our seminarians and each one of you to the care of the Good Shepherd, I assure you of my prayers, and with my blessing.
Yours sincerely in Jesus Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster