May we hear the voice of the Lord

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Throughout the Easter season of 50 days there are outstanding manifestations of the Lord from week to week that strengthen our faith in him, and love for him. Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter is the culmination of the Easter Octave reverberating with the loving mercy, peace and power of the resurrection. Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter enfolds us in perhaps the most beloved image of God in the entire Bible revealing the personal relationship that the Lord wants with each of us and all of us together as his flock, his body. Two weeks later we celebrate the great feast of the Ascension, with the assurance that our citizenship is in heaven. From that moment until Pentecost we will maintain vigilance in prayer awaiting to be clothed with power from on high.

Although Good Shepherd Sunday has a much longer tradition in the Catholic Church than Divine Mercy Sunday, it is St. John the Evangelist who has blessed the church until Christ comes again with these beloved manifestations.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The beloved disciple, apostle and evangelist embraced the image of the Good Shepherd, beloved to Jew and Christian, and made it the centerpiece of his Gospel at nearly the halfway point in chapter 10. It is an image that is deeply rooted in the Old Testament portraying that God for the Israelites was far more than a lawgiver.

He was a loving presence who renewed their strength, anointed their heads with oil, set a table before them, and led them through dark valleys and rough patches. It is such a powerful image that it easily transcended its origins to become the earliest rendition of the risen Lord in Christian art as discovered in the catacombs.

It continues to capture the imagination of believers even though many of us have never directly experienced this way of life, except for the sheep barn at the County Fair. It endures because it represents God as loving and personal, wedded to his people forever. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep… I know my own and my own knows me… My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.” (John 10:1ff)

On Good Shepherd Sunday, the church prays for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. As part of the flock of the Good Shepherd all are grafted onto the vine of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and we pray that all will respond generously to the voice of the Lord to live their vocation.

From the household of God, we pray for vocations to the ordained and consecrated life. We recall Jesus’ words at the Last Supper to his apostles. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John:15-16) Ultimately, this is the work of the Lord, but we are to beg the harvest master to send out workers to the vineyard because the harvest is great. (Matthew 9:35-38)

The Eucharistic Revival is intrinsically linked with the priesthood, and all the faithful have a part to play in raising up vocations. In this spirit, the Synod on Synodality is a clarion call for all of the baptized to take their place in the household of God, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart to proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light. (1Peter 2:9)

May we hear the voice of the Lord, crucified and risen, resound in our hearts and minds in order to follow him faithfully.