Jesus told his disciples that the Father would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would teach them everything they needed as his followers. The Spirit would help them to learn the Divine truths and grant them His peace at all times. We should always try to be aware of God’s abiding presence within us. It enables us to face the future with courage and unwavering hope.
To do so, it helps if we find time each day for personal prayer when we can talk to God and also listen to him. When we listen to Him we gradually become aware of His plan for our lives and His solution to any problems we are encountering become clearer. In turn our hearts and minds are converted and we are able to love our fellow human beings as he intends us to. That love should be evident to all we meet daily.
There is a story of Benjamin, a young Jew who fell in love with a Catholic girl. When Benjamin proposed to Catherine she immediately went to her parents to ask for advice. Her father said ‘Convert him to Catholicism’ while her mother simply advised ‘Love him tenderly and Gods Spirit will work wonders’. Her Dad wouldn’t give in and eventually Benjamin was duly converted. But, weeks later Benjamin called off the wedding. The young girl was distraught and in tears. ‘What’s wrong?’ her father asked. She replied: ‘Benjamin wants to be a priest’!
On the night before he died and just after Judas has left the upper room, Jesus gives the rest of the disciples a command and a promise. He tells them to love one another and the guarantee is that people will know that they are his disciples. There is both a challenge and a reassurance. On a later occasion Jesus went as far as to say that we would be judged on the love we show to others.
Living out that commandment to love one another isn’t easy, even within our own families. Because we are all imperfect creatures. It’s easy to love those who are kind and loving towards us but Christian love calls us to do more than this. No one must be excluded from our loving. Even our enemies and those who have hurt us. We all know just how difficult that is though. We are called to recognise God, present in everyone we meet and treat them accordingly. So, becoming real Christians is probably the work of a lifetime and not something that happens overnight. It requires a lot of patience on our part.
If we have truly experienced God’s love in our lives and we allow him to enter our hearts, we are asked to share that unconditional love with others and become channels of his grace. The challenge for all of us in today’s Gospel is to look at our own lives and into our own hearts to see how we are answering this call to love each other as he loves us.
Good Shepherd Sunday
World day of prayer for Vocations
The image of the shepherd and the sheep is one that we often encounter in the Scripture readings at mass.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells us ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me’. A sheep knows the voice of the shepherd, and will only respond to that particular voice. But we all know that sheep often stray away from the rest of the flock in search of greener pastures and before long they may become lost and cut off from the watchful eye of the shepherd.
In society there are lots of voices and things fighting for our attention, promising, riches, pleasure or satisfaction. Some of us do find happiness when we are distracted this way. But when we are spiritually healthy we can hear the voice of God in our lives guiding and directing us differently. God sends Shepherds to us, Women and Men to guide us on our way and bring us back to his safe protection when we are lost.
So today, we pray for vocations to religious life and Priesthood. That Women and Men will continue to answer the call in the service of the Lord. That families will support and encourage Daughters and Sons as they seek to discern if they have a vocation as one of his modern-day shepherds.
Lord, inspire Women and Men to give their lives to building your kingdom on earth.
With their dreams shattered by the events of Good Friday it now seems that the Apostles are anxious to get their lives back to normal. Simon Peter says that he is going fishing and some of the other disciples decide to join him. After trying all night, they have nothing to show for their labours.
As they return to the shore Jesus calls out and asks ‘have you caught anything, friends?’ No, they reply. He encourages them to cast their nets once more. Miraculously this time their nets are filled to capacity with fish. It suddenly dawns on them who this man is.
When they reach land Jesus invites them to ‘Come and have breakfast’. Though none of them asked him who he was they all knew in their hearts that it was Jesus. He shares the bread and fish with them. In the course of conversation, he asks Simon Peter three times if he loves him and gives him an instruction. The third time he tells him ‘Feed my sheep’.
We all need food daily to help our bodies and minds to function. If we don’t have regular and healthy meals, we will eventually begin to have problems. It’s the same with our spiritual lives. They need to be nourished by prayer and scripture. The Eucharist is food for the soul and gives us that spiritual nourishment we so badly need to guide and direct us.
Because we may have a busy lifestyle we can end up eating ‘fast food’ and not sit down to eat properly. So too with our spiritual lives. We need to take time daily to sit and relax, come into the Lord’s presence and allow ourselves to be present to him also. Then our own ‘spiritual nets’ will provide us with the nourishment we need for the journey.
Today we hear how the doors were closed in the room where the disciples had gathered for fear of the Jews. Something amazing happens when Jesus appears and greets them with the words “Peace be with you”. The disciples are filled with awe and are unable to respond to Jesus’ initial greeting so he repeats it once more. He then gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit and commissions them to go out and forgive sins.
Thomas is not present when Jesus appears and he fails to believe the other disciples when they tell him that they have “seen the Lord”. Jesus’ death had shattered Thomas faith so he wants personal proof that Jesus is risen. It’s another eight days before they are finally together again and this time Thomas is present. Jesus invites him to place his finger in his wounds in order that he will be convinced and believe.
When it comes to God’s Mercy we often fail to be convinced and believe that he forgives us our sins. We may find it easy to tell others that God forgives them but when it comes to ourselves we have yet to be convinced, just as doubting Thomas is in today’s gospel. Very often the problem is that we can’t forgive ourselves for the sin we have committed or the hurt we have caused to others.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, like Thomas we are all a mixture of belief and unbelief when it comes to accepting God’s mercy for ourselves. We may have doubts in our minds but faith in our hearts. So today we pray: ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief’.