Fourth Sunday of Easter
I suggest that any confusion in this hearing may well result from a long tradition of associating “shepherding” in the religious sense with a far too narrow understanding of a “religious vocation.” Many think only of a calling to Ministerial Priesthood (Holy Orders) and /or membership in a Religious Institute (women and men who have professed religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and belong to the Franciscans, Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.).
But to the contrary, official teaching of the Catholic Church provides a much wider and deeper notion of “vocation.” The Priesthood of the laity is very clear in the Catechism of the Church which teaches that the “Priesthood of Christ is composed of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. Baptism and Confirmation are the Common Priesthood. Holy Orders is the Ministerial Priesthood. “The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ” (Catechism 1546, 1547). Further, The Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People of the Second Vatican Council reminds us of “the laity’s special and indispensable role in the mission of the Church. Indeed, the Church can never be without the lay apostolate; it is something that derives from the layperson’s very vocation as a Christian. Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful was this activity in the Church’s early days” (Acts 11:19-21; 18:26; Rom.16:1-16; Phil. 4:3).
The profound reality that links these readings is that Jesus is both the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. As followers of Jesus, Christians are called through Baptism and given a similar dual vocation. Especially in this Easter Season, each Christian is challenged to closely heed Christ’s voice and make a renewed commitment to living out their particular vocation, while also supporting everyone else in their individual calling. Such a vocation might be to be a fantastic mom, a helpful child, a wise elder, a generous teenager — or any variety of God’s beloved family.
In today’s challenging times, we anticipate the full promulgation of Pope Francis’ new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”) on June 29, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. The whole thrust of the constitution will take the bold step of placing evangelization at the heart of the Roman Curia’s mission; every aspect of Catholicism’s civil service must flow from this. This is also aimed at sending a signal to dioceses around the world to follow suit. Other changes set out by the constitution include the establishment of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors as part of the Curia, which would give the child-protection body greater authority and make it more effective.
According to Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the coordinator of the council of cardinals, the new constitution also envisages putting more laity into positions of leadership. The main objective is to underline the importance of laypeople in the Church and for the Church. In an important and paradoxical way, this development in Church governance brings additional meaning to Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying us on his shoulders as symbolized in a beautiful way by the Pallium.