|Fr Rob with his collection of Poems|
"Every year we read a section of the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel at Mass on the Fourth Sunday of Easter (this year it’s on April 29), thus giving the Sunday its name. And, given the Gospel reading, it’s scarcely surprising that ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ is the principal Day of Prayer for Vocations in the Church’s Year, because the title reminds us of the one calling we all share: the call to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we are confronted with the challenge of that calling. Whatever our path in life, we don’t just need to follow the Shepherd. We also need to become like him, people who willingly lay down our lives for others.
Jesus makes an important distinction between ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘The Hired Man’. The second character very understandably runs for safety when a wolf pack attacks. The Good Shepherd cannot, not because he is less agile than the wage-slave but because his sheep are his life. It’s as true to say that ‘he belongs to them’ as that ‘they belong to him’.
A Church which has ‘professional’ (i.e. full-time) clergy certainly runs risks, as we sadly know all too well (clericalism, careerism dressed up as piety, the abuse of power ...). Yet there’s also something beautiful in a life fully given for others and for the building up of the communion of the Church.
The shape of the ordained ministry is bound to change radically in coming years, but it would be very sad if we lost the expectation that our pastors give themselves totally in service of a particular community, so that their ministry can become a lived parable of Christ, the true Shepherd. So, beginning today, pray for your pastors – and pray that you too will listen to the Lord’s call."