Readings for the fourth Sunday of Easter in year A

Acts 2:14, 36-41

Psalm 22

1 Peter 2:20-25

John 10:1-10

Homily

For weeks now the news has been dominated by the Corona virus. That is not surprising considering the impact of the virus on society. Daily press conferences keep us informed about measures that are being taken to cope with the pandemic and we hear about the possible way forward to ease the current lockdown.

One of the sad pieces of information is the daily update about the hundreds of people who have died of the virus. Behind every number there is a name and a story, and also many people who mourn the loss of a loved one. The pain and suffering is unimaginable. Our prayers are with those affected directly or indirectly.

Regularly we also hear about the number of care workers and frontline NHS staff who are among the Corona victims. They often contracted the virus whilst doing their job and they gave their life as a consequence of their dedication to the people entrusted to their care.

Although one could say that they were doing their job, I don’t think death is included in the job description. I suspect that for most workers in this field it is more than a job. What they do is also a response to a vocation.

This takes me to the theme of this fourth Sunday of Easter. Today is ‘Vocations Sunday’. Our special prayers are asked for vocations to the ordained ministry in the church and to the various expressions of consecrated life. In my recent email I included a link to resources on the diocesan website. You will also find information on the websites of the Conference of Religious,  https://www.corew.org/vocations, and the website of the RC Church in England and Wales, https://www.cbcew.org.uk/.

I recommend you to have a look at these resources. They offer material for reflection and prayer for this intention.

In view of the current situation, it seems to me that today’s theme also invites us to approach ‘vocation’ from a wider perspective. The call to ordained ministry or consecrated life is rooted in baptism and the universal call to holiness. We speak about our baptismal call and that is what we all have in common. Responding to this call has set us on a journey and has taken us where we are today. For some of us it has led to religious profession or ordination, for some it led to marriage or to other commitments that may or may not have a public expression.

Obviously these days the spotlight is on people who have dedicated their lives to serve those who are ill and infirm and we give thanks for their response to this call.

Although I believe that everyone has been called to do the Lord some definite service, it may require some discernment to find out what this may entail. We need time to prayerfully listen and discern whether we are indeed following the voice of the Lord. In the gospel we heard that he leads us to fullness of life. That is a hopeful promise.

But the way to this fullness of life is not always straight forward. We may travel through valleys of darkness. We may get lost along the way. We may have to let go in order to find. It may lead us through suffering and pain.

In today’s words of the letter of St. Peter it is suggested that suffering is an integral part of the Christian journey and that we should draw comfort from Jesus, our role model. His way is offered as an example. It is also pointed out that Jesus’ suffering has a redemptive dimension which gives life to others; through his wounds you have been healed.

This connects us with the heart of the Easter mystery and may give us food for thought. It gives a lens through which to look at the dedication and self-giving love of so many in their response to the suffering in the world. Through their dedication they reflect something of the way of the Lord, whether they are aware of it or not.

Peter’s insight also offers a lens to help us to see the Lord’s presence and guidance on our journey through its ups and downs and discern how to respond in the present situation. Jesus is the gate of the sheepfold who leads us to fullness of life. He is also the good shepherd who cares for his sheep, searches the lost, shows compassion and loves them with a self-giving love.

May this image help and these words help us to hear the Lord’s call, follow him and reach out as he did within the possibilities that are offered to us this week. May the Lord guide us and bless us. Amen.