Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


4th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
April 21th, 2013
Year C

Most priests, I have discovered, have a pretty unique story behind their vocation to the priesthood. I remember when I discovered that God was calling me to one of His priests. First the call came from other priests who would say things like: “have you ever thought of the priesthood?” Or: “you would make a good priest.” As a typical teenager then, I dismissed these words of invitation as wishful thinking on the part of my, now, brothers in ministry. Until one day, while on a youth retreat, a priest-friend of mine was addressing all the participants and talking about vocations. I was praying that God was NOT calling me to the priesthood. He, obviously, had something else in mind. I remember seeing the figure of Jesus in my mind calling me toward Him. As if He were saying: “come, follow me.”

Today, as the Church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we also gather in recognition of the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, known as Good Shepherd Sunday. As such, we acknowledge Jesus as the Good Shepherd, for so He calls Himself. To this end, we can reflect on what it means to be a “good shepherd.” In the Old Testament, the comparison is everywhere: God chose shepherds to be the Patriarchs; He chose shepherds to be Israel’s first kings; the prophets ceaselessly speak of Israel as a flock and God as their shepherd; the image returns again and again in the Psalms, as in the beautiful expression from today’s Psalm: “Know that the Lord is God; he made us, his we are; his people, the flock he tends.” Comparing God to a good shepherd can only happen in a religion that recognizes a special connection between the human person and God - for instance, that man is created in His image and likeness. Only then does the comparison make sense, because a God who is a good shepherd is a God who walks with his people and cares about their every joy and sorrow. The Good Shepherd knows us in a very intimate way – better than we know ourselves. The fact that we are able to hear Him comes from the fact that He knows us. This should be our greatest joy – the simple joy of having someone who knows us through and through.

Every priest who is ordained to act in the Person of Jesus Christ, is a man who walks with his people. He cares for them in their joys and sorrows. He knows his people and has a ministry that is modeled after the Good Shepherd. He is the one who bridges the gap between humanity and God. He is the one who brings Jesus to his people. He is the voice of the Good Shepherd whose teaching serves as a guide, whose administration of the sacraments brings healing to our sickly souls, he illumines the path to holiness by virtue of the example of his own life, and the priest is the one who nourishes the flock by feeding them with the Bread of Life. It is a noble task and a difficult one. It requires that we first listen to the voice the Good Shepherd, that we are courageous enough to follow Him and humbly go wherever He leads. This courage, true courage, is not an absence of fear but the willingness to proceed in spite of the difficulty that lies ahead. In today’s world, this courage is desperately needed because we live in a society that does not understand this calling to the religious life. What people do not understand, they will mock and criticize. It can be a deterrent for young men to avoid a possible call to the priesthood as well as for women to enter religious life. Yet, the example of St. Paul helps us. He was absolutely convinced that he was called to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, in spite of the danger he knew he would face. In doing so, however, he fulfilled God’s will and he “was filled with joy.” Our true joy lies in following the Good Shepherd, in doing what God asks of us for in doing so, we discover our true selves.

To hear the Shepherd, to follow His will requires quiet and prayer. Blessed Pope John Paul II once said that if young people can be taught to pray, then they can be trusted to know God’s call. This type of prayer, however, is more than the simple, formal prayers we utter, like the rosary. This type of prayer is a conversation that comes from the heart. It is deep within our souls where sometimes we need to just sit before the Lord, particularly before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and listen. This is where the vocation stories find their beginning sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, listening to the voice of the Shepherd. In his message on vocations, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comments in this way:

“Deep and constant prayer brings about growth in the faith if the Christian community, in the unceasingly renewed certainty that God never abandons his people and that he sustains them by raising up particular vocations – to the priesthood and consecrated life – so that they can be signs of hope for the world.”

“Chose now,” says St. Anthony Claret, “what you wish to have chosen at life’s end.” Will you listen to the voice of the Shepherd? Will you follow Him? Remember this, every vocation has heaven as its ultimate goal. It is so ordered toward bringing others with us along the way. What will be the story you tell others about how called you to the priesthood or religious life. And, who will you bring with you to heaven?










Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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