Sunday, April 22, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Easter – B
Good Shepherd Sunday
World Day of Prayer for Vocations
There is a story about a fisherman who always came back with a boat-load of fish. A stranger came to town and asked if he could go along. “Sure,” the fisherman replied. “Just be at my dock at 5:00 tomorrow morning.”
The next day the stranger didn’t see a fishing rod in the boat. All he saw was a tackle box and a net. When they got out of the harbor, the fisherman cut the engine. Then he opened his tackle box, took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it into the water. When it exploded, fish came to the surface. He got his net and scooped them into the boat.
With that, the stranger pulled out his game warden’s badge and said, “You’re under arrest!” That didn’t trouble the fisherman one bit. He opened his tackle box, took out another stick of dynamite, lit it and handed it to the game warden and said, “Are you just going to sit there, or are you ready to fish?”
That is some of the spirit of the Scriptures today: “Are you just going to sit there, or are you ready to fish?”
In the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about Simon Peter. After Jesus had been crucified, Peter and the others hid themselves out of fear. But after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit upon them, they found a new courage. And today Peter had just healed a crippled man.
The Jewish leaders were questioning Peter about how he did this. Peter courageously responded, “Leaders of the people and elders: you should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, and whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
Peter could no longer just sit there. He was ready to fish for the Lord – and “explosively.”
This Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sundaybecause of today’s Gospel where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me…. I will lay down my life for the sheep.”
It is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations. A vocation is a calling from God: whether to single life, married life, consecrated religious life, or the ordained life.
We have all received a calling from God, or for our young, you are discerning God’s call. I ask you, in light of today’s Scriptures: are you doing right now all that God is asking of you in your vocation? “Are you just going to sit there, or are you ready to fish?”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan is the Archbishop of New York. In terms of population, New York is the second largest diocese in our nation. Los Angeles is the largest. [By the way, the Diocese of Cleveland is #19 in size among the 193 dioceses in the United States.]
Cardinal Dolan joked that his own “shepherding style” might be a little different from the archbishops before him. He describes himself as “a beer and fish-fry kind of guy.” He says that “the what” won’t change in his ministry, maybe just “the how.”
Cardinal Dolan said: “Our calling, our vocation as disciples is to change our lives to be in conformity with Jesus and His Church, and not to change the teachings of Jesus and His Church to be in conformity with what we want.”
As the bishop and chief shepherd of his diocese, Cardinal Dolan has promised that he would not shy away from preaching the truth and applying the teachings of Jesus Christ to contemporary situations. He said, “Bishops are not into politics – we’re into principles.”
And that is true. The Church is not into politics – it is into principles. As Catholics, we do have something to say in public life about those principles and their application. And our religious liberty ought to guarantee us the opportunity.
Bishop Anthony Pilla, our retired diocesan bishop, looking over Catholicism in the United States, made a remark that I have always remembered. He said that “American Catholics often see themselves first and foremost as Americans, second as Democrats or Republicans, and third as Catholics.” I think there is ample evidence of the truth of this observation.
“Are we just going to sit there, or are we ready to fish?”
Commenting on declining Sunday Mass attendance, Cardinal Dolan said that this is part of a larger problem of people not seeing the need for organized religion. He said that “people are interested in spirituality, but they want to believe without belonging. They want to be sheep without a shepherd. They want to be part of a family, but they want to be the only child.”
Wow – what a way to put that! How people want to part of the family of the Church, “but they want to be the only child.” We realize that in our own family lives that we don’t always get our own way. Nor do we in the family life of the Church – His Church.
So on this Good Shepherd Sunday, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I ask you: in your own calling – or in the calling that you are discerning – what is the Lord asking of you right now? As part of Our Lord’s family, and we all have work to do for Him that only we can do – or it probably will not get done.
“Are you just going to sit there, or are you ready to fish?”