The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day
Reflection & Dialogue: Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for his flock. Prayer for vocations
- In the present liturgy this Sunday is devoted to “World Day of Prayer for Vocations”. Not much earlier it was known as “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The Gospel readings for all three Sundays of the three-year cycle, and the prayers for the Mass, are all about this same theme, Jesus as Good Shepherd. The Gospel readings for all three Sundays are from Jesus’ presentation of himself as the Good Shepherd in chapter 10 of John’s Gospel. The two themes, Jesus as Good Shepherd and prayer for vocations, can be very fruitfully combined. The need of prayer for vocations, and for what particular vocations, can best be understood in the context of reflection on Jesus as shepherd of his faithful flock.
- A central truth in Jesus as shepherd of his flock is that this flock and the interrelation between Jesus and believers are constituted by faith in Jesus. Without this faith there can be no interrelationship between Jesus and his flock. It is only the sheep that belong to him that listen to his voice. In fact, in his debate on the issue with his questioners, Jesus told them that they do not believe, because they do not belong to his sheep (John 10:26). He had said something similar when referring to himself as the true bread of life: “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6:65).
- Jesus, the Good Shepherd, stresses the truth that, given faith, no amount of persecution, trials, questioning, can destroy fidelity to him. Both he and his Father will defend his flock, that is, believers in him, against all attacks from outside and from within. The problems concerning faith in Jesus and fidelity to him vary from age to age. In our own day they are manifold, from prevailing doubt in the every existence of God to scandals and weakness in the Church.
- This all leads to the other theme of the day — prayer for vocations. Jesus himself has called for this –- to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. Prayer itself is an act of faith in the nature of the Church, Christ’s flock. We should pray for vocations for all the needs of the Church, for vocations to the priesthood, religious life, for lay people versed in the sciences, literature, the arts and in the many callings in which response can be made to the questions and problems endangering faith among the flock of the Good Shepherd.