Minister Speaks: Good Shepherd Sunday

I am Fr. Arul Carasala, serving as administrator for Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Sabetha, St. James Catholic Church of Wetmore and St. Augustine Catholic Church of Fidelity and continuing as pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Seneca.

I am blessed to share reflections on Good Shepherd Sunday. We live and deal with animals for our livelihood. Animals help us for our own spirituality. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, called Good Shepherd Sunday, we continue to reflect on the meaning of the Resurrection. This is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Today, we celebrate the risen Lord as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. The priest in charge of a parish is called pastor because pastor means shepherd of Christ’s sheep. As a shepherd, he leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects and protects Christ’s sheep in the parish.

The most beautiful and meaningful comment on the life and the legacy of Pope John Paul II was made by the famous televangelist the late Billy Graham. (May his soul rest in Peace.) In a TV Interview, he said, “He lived like his Master the Good Shepherd and he died like his Master the Good Shepherd.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd and explains what he does for his sheep.

In today’s first reading, Peter asserts unequivocally before the Jewish assembly that there is no salvation except through Christ, the Good Shepherd, the one the Jewish leaders have rejected and crucified and in whose name the apostles preach and heal.

In the second reading, St. John tells us how Yahweh, the Good Shepherd of the Old Testament, expressed His love for us through His Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, by making us His children.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus introduces himself as the “Good Shepherd.” Jesus claims that as Good Shepherd he knows his sheep and loves them so much that he is ready to die for them. The Gospel text offers us both comfort and challenge. The comforting Good News is that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows us, provides for us and loves us. The challenge is for us to become good shepherds to those entrusted to our care and good sheep in our parish, the sheepfold of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

First, let us become good shepherds. Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Hence pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials and politicians are all shepherds. Since shepherding a diocese, a parish, a civil community or a family is very demanding, the shepherds need dedication, commitment, sacrifice and vigilance every day. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time, talents, health and wealth for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties as shepherds, becoming role models for their children by leading exemplary lives.

Second, let us be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Jesus is the High Priest, the bishops are the successors of the apostles, the pastors are their helpers and the parishioners are the sheep. We become good sheep of our parish a) By hearing and following the voice of our shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice; b) By taking the spiritual food given by our pastors through regular and active participation in the Holy Mass and by frequenting the sacraments, prayer services, renewal programs and missions; c) By cooperating with our pastors giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, encouraging them in their ministry by prayer and presence, by praise and thanks for all they are doing for us, and occasionally by offering them constructive suggestions for changes; d) By cooperating as good stewards in the activities of various councils, ministries and parish associations and community activities to be at the service of others.

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