‘See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are...’ — 1 Jn 3:1

This Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Eastertime. It is also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Our Gospel is always about that favorite image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Sunday is also a World Day of Prayer for Vocations. While deeply valuing and promoting the vocation that every person has to follow Jesus and to build up the kingdom of God, the Church community focuses this Sunday on the particular vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate) and to the religious or consecrated life.

Pope Francis’ message for this World Day of Prayer for Vocations notes that: “Every vocation…always requires an exodus from oneself in order to center one’s life on Christ and on His Gospel.” With this in mind, let us explore our readings, especially the Gospel.

In the first reading (Acts 4:8-12), we are in the midst of a controversy. St. Peter has healed a crippled man and then preached to the astonished crowd about the risen Christ. The religious authorities are not pleased, so Peter and the other disciples are arrested. Our Scripture passage brings us in as they are being questioned by the religious leaders.

Peter fearlessly proclaims that there is no salvation through anyone else but Jesus Christ. It is a great reminder to us that all we do should be done in and through Christ. A beautiful prayer called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” speaks of our calling to have Jesus Christ at the heart of all our words and deeds. If you can, Google the prayer and make it your own!

Once again, at Mass, we then sing the Easter psalm (Ps 118). This, too, tells us that Jesus Christ in the cornerstone or foundation of all that we say and do. Jesus Christ, the stone rejected by the builders, has become the cornerstone.

Our second reading (1 Jn 3:1-2) expresses this reality in a rather more domestic way: We are “children” of God. The word in the original language of the Scriptures (“tekna”) used here means a blood relation, or descendants or perhaps even “kids.” St. John wants to make clear how close our relationship is to God and, like children, we depend totally on God.

Not surprisingly, this reading is one that can be chosen for a funeral Mass, because it speaks of this familiarity — so much so, St. John writes, that we shall see God and we shall be like Him.

The Gospel (Jn 10:11-18), is part of Jesus’ discourse about the Good Shepherd. Each year of the three-year cycle, we read a different section of the discourse. Our passage this year focuses upon two elements: first, we hear about the total and absolute dedication of Jesus as the Good Shepherd; second, we then see how we are to know His voice when He calls us. In fact, this is how we receive and follow our particular vocation in life.

As with the word “children,” it is worth exploring some of the key words in the Gospel, as they come to us in the original language of the Scriptures. When Jesus says that He is the “Good” Shepherd, the word he uses is “kalos.” When we think about it, our English word “good” has many meanings. The word “kalos,” in our Gospel, means “good” as in being good at it, or fittingly, or better at it: Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd, in that He is good at it! He shows this above all as He lays down His life for His sheep.

We hope and pray that those who have leadership roles in the Church may also be “good” in this sense, and we should certainly keep them in our prayers.

The word “know” also comes up quite a few times in the Gospel. In the original language of the written Gospels, the word here is “gnosis.” It does not really mean an intellectual or head-knowledge; nor does it really mean facts and figures. Instead, it signifies a deep knowledge that touches every part of one’s life.

Genesis is therefore very much about understanding as well as just knowing, and it is something that determines our will, our values and our actions. When Jesus talks about this “knowing,” this is what He means. Furthermore, our calling or vocation is really, in the end, to know God in this way.

As we continue our preparations for the diocesan Eucharistic Congress, our readings remind us that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, feeds us in and through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is also a spiritual food that helps us truly to know the Lord, and also to follow our calling to be disciples and disciple-makers.