DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS.
Acts 13; 14, 43-52.
The first reading records Paul, Barnabas and John Mark as they set out on the first Missionary journey of the fledgling Church in Jerusalem to ‘speak the word’ to the Jewish people in Pisidian Antioch in present day Asia Minor. For some reason unknown to us John Mark left the group and returned to Jerusalem. Destined for Antioch, Paul and Barnabas got a good welcome from the local Jewish authorities. He spoke to them of their long history as God’s people and of all the things that had happened recently in Jerusalem. They got an enthusiastic hearing from Jew and non-Jew alike and they were invited back the following Sabbath. Meanwhile some Jews who had heard Paul speak of the continuing grace of God for His people through Jesus, rejected all he said. Paul told these Jewish objectors to Good News of Jesus that they were the first to hear this Good News but because of their rejection of it, as of now, he and Barnabas were going to preach to the Gentiles among them, the believers in Antioch. So it happened they left Antioch and began to preach throughout the region – until the Jews organised the influential men and women of the area and drove them out. Joyfully ‘they shook the dust off their feet’ in protest and moved on with new disciples, filled with joy and the Holy Spirit
Today there are so many women and men thirsting for ‘something’ that is missing in their lives. Anxiously they cast around for meaning. One meets them on the road, on the bus, when in the supermarket – all casual, natural encounters. A word, the beauty of the day, a laugh at some amusing incident, a little courtesy will bring a movement of spirit and open one up. Like the Gentiles we need to be open to the Spirit of God in order to receive ‘meaning’ for our living. We ‘speak meaning’ to each other. As disciples we have a responsible task on hand.
Apocalypse 7:9, 14-17
The second reading from the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse as it is also called, depicts countless followers of the Risen Christ from every part of Creation. They have endured the vicissitudes of the journey with Him; true disciples they have stayed the course. Not only that but they are still ‘active’, worshipping day and night In the eternal temple, before God’s throne. This multitude, seen and heard, clad in white is waving palm branches, singing hymns of praise. The lamb, also robed in white, at the throne, is their Shepherd forever.
Faithful witnesses to the Lord of all, we give thanks for all who have shown loyalty and witness to Word of God, those living among us and those among that choir of praise. Stay with the image.
Gospel John 10: 27-30
The image of the Good Shepherd is one of love, care, protection, intimacy and closeness. The image of Christ as Shepherd is so familiar to us. Yet we do not always realise that in the East the shepherd always leads his sheep, unlike the shepherd in the west who drives his sheep assisted by a sheep dog – a one man and his dog image!
In the east the shepherd never left his sheep. He led them out before sunrise before the heat of the day, one by one. He knew them all individually, and they him. He shared a common sheepfold with other shepherds by night and took his turn in guarding it by lying across its entrance. He led the sheep to areas where he knew there was good nibbling and eating for the day. Choice pieces he brought down to them from bushes with his staff. The closer they were to him the better and more tit-bits they received from him. For thirst he had to bring them to calm waters, a little pool perhaps, as sheep are unable to drink from actual running streams. He was out with them all day long protecting them from any dangers around, and by night he was a guardian.
Shepherding was considered a lowly job so the youngest son got the job. It was also a lonely one. If there was no son in the family one of the daughters got it. So there were shepherdesses as well. It was common place. For instance Rachel, Laban youngest daughter was a shepherdess, as were Jethro’s daughters.
This beautiful image of the eastern shepherd has some profound lessons for us. We are all called to be shepherds, to engage in shepherding. It is an all pervasive activity to which we are called to as followers of Christ Jesus. We are shepherds to one another
Dominique Horgan op.