One unfortunate outcome of connecting the image of the Good Shepherd from today’s Gospel so heavily to priesthood is that the Fourth Sunday of Easter has at times been overshadowed by Vocations Sunday. Highlighting a call to ordained life is a good and necessary thing, and we should encourage vocations to the diaconate and priesthood. However, making that today’s primary message risks overlooking the neophytes for whom these Sunday Masses of Easter are intended as their principal source of post-baptismal catechesis. If you focus only on vocations to ordained ministry today, you just might neglect the very source of every vocation: baptism.This Sunday, if you focus only on vocations to ordained ministry, you might neglect the very source of every vocation: baptism. Click To Tweet
The foundational vocation that today’s readings highlight is the call to be the children of God (second reading) and to do the mighty works of God in Christ’s name, even if persecuted (first reading and psalm). For the Good Shepherd is also the rejected cornerstone. All of us are to lay down our lives in imitation of Christ. That is our baptismal call, a vocation whose vows we just renewed or made for the first time three weeks ago.
Pope Benedict XVI described this broader understanding of vocation well:
Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church…And the priest’s role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God’s task for each one of us. (March 25, 2007)
Wouldn’t it be beautiful to hear a homily from your priest or deacon today not just on his call to ordained ministry but on why his baptism matters and has made a difference in his life? I long to hear a deacon, priest, or bishop speak with love in a homily on this day about his baptism—a vocation we all share—and how he tries to live his baptismal promises every day. I imagine that a homily like that in this Easter season could only help to encourage every baptized person in our assemblies, whether young or old, man or woman, newly initiated or lifelong disciple, to look again at their baptismal call and reflect on how they can follow the Shepherd’s voice more fully in their lives.