In today’s Gospel Jesus employs the image of a shepherd to describe his relationship to us, his sheep. We are happy to be his sheep because we know his voice; we trust him; he protects us from evil; he gives us life. In today’s Second Reading we see the unusual image of the Lamb as shepherd. The Lamb is Jesus who “shared our human nature in all things but sin” (cf. Eucharistic Prayer IV, Hebrews 4:15) retaining the innocence of a lamb, but whose blood washed away the sins of the flock.
In the Church Jesus calls men to shepherd his flock as bishops, priests and deacons. Furthermore, he calls men and women to consecrate themselves in religious life to guide the flock to the kingdom by their example of vowed poverty, chastity and obedience. Today the Church throughout the world observes a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Pope Francis’ message for the 56th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is posted on the Vatican web site:
I think primarily of the call to the Christian life which all of us received at Baptism. It teaches us that our life is not a fluke but rather a gift: that of being God’s beloved children, gathered in the great family of the Church. It is precisely in the ecclesial community that the Christian life is born and develops, especially through the liturgy. The liturgy introduces us to God’s word and the grace of the sacraments; from an early age, we are taught the art of prayer and fraternal sharing. In the end, the Church is our mother because she brings us to new life and leads us to Christ. So we must love her, even when we see her face marred by human frailty and sin, and we must help to make her ever more beautiful and radiant, so that she can bear witness to God’s love in the world.
This great season of grace continues this week as four second graders from St. Peter Parish receive their First Holy Communion during the 9:00 Mass this Sunday. The Church is enriched and renewed by the grace of the sacraments effective in the lives of her members.
Today is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day has its origins in Greek springtime pagan celebrations in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. It spread into Europe and with Christianity became a celebration in honor of “Mother Church,” who gives us new life through baptism and protects us from harm through the grace of the sacraments. So the life-giving and nurturing characteristics of motherhood and of the Church complement one another and are appropriately observed during May, the month of Our Lady, Mother of the Church and Queen of Families.
I want to welcome to our parishes Father Thomas Nirappel, MSFS, who will be with us the next couple of months. A native of Kerala, India, he is a priest for 27 years and a member of the Missionary Society of St. Francis de Sales. It has also been announced that one of the two priests to be ordained on June 22 will be our next associate pastor: Ethan Hokamp from Wisconsin Rapids. Please pray for them and all priests and seminarians.
Pray the rosary this week for mothers, living and deceased. Pray for Holy Mother Church, for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and for those from our parishes who have recently received their first communion or confirmation. Pray for good weather for the spring planting and growing season; and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.