April 21st – IV Sunday of Easter

My Dear Friends,

My predecessor, Father Davis, had a beautiful picture for the header of this column of him holding a lamb around his shoulders reminiscent of Christ the Good Shepherd. As priests, we are called to be shepherds to our flocks and lead them to greener pastures and ultimately into the arms of Christ our Lord in heaven.

I remember that during my first trip to the Holy Land, we were in a bus going south along the highway that divides Israel and Jordan. We had just left a pilgrimage site along the Jordan River where we renewed our baptismal vows and were en route to the Dead Sea. As we journeyed along the road, I noticed a very large pasture filled with sheep. As Floridians, we rarely encounter sheep or lambs unless we visit a petting zoo. Now in the Holy Land, I was witnessing what Christ himself witnessed: a pasture filled with sheep. The bus stopped briefly so we could get a better look, and I marveled at the vista in front of me that I had read about so much in the Scriptures. The sheep were inching towards the highway curious at the sight of all these pilgrims when all of a sudden, a noise and voice were heard. The shepherd made a clicking sound with his voice and called out to them and the sheep instinctively veered away from the highway and back towards the shepherd so that they could continue grazing.

My thoughts turned to today’s gospel: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” The sheep along the road knew the distinct voice of the shepherd. As soon as he called out to them, their attention turned back towards him. So many times we are distracted by the most minimal things, but if we know the voice of Christ, if we can recognize when he is calling out to us, we are led to beautiful pastures where we can delight in our Lord’s presence and fully trust that he is leading us to where he wants us to go.

Today, we not only celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, but we also celebrate World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Praying for vocations to the priesthood is something that we should do daily. We need good and holy priests that are shepherd after our Lord’s heart. We need to pray that more young men may recognize the voice of the Divine Shepherd and follow him into this glorious life of service where they get to lead the sheep that go astray back in the merciful arms of our Lord. We are blessed here in Little Flower that we have two seminarians: Jonathan Sanchez and Darvin Leiva. Jonathan is about to start his pastoral year in seminary as he inches closer to ordination in three years. Darvin is a seminarian we adopted so to speak. He is one of the many priests and seminarians who were jailed in Nicaragua and then exiled simply for being a priest or a seminarian. Darvin has visited the 12:30p Mass several times, and we are blessed to have him and his courageous witness in the face of religious persecution. He is only 21 and has already suffered for the sake of Christ.

Please pray for them this day and pray that our parish produce more vocations. Today I renew the call I made a year ago to all of you to sign up to take our Vocations Chalice home for a week to pray for vocations. Contact Father Andrew if you would like to take this chalice, that once contained the very Blood of Christ, into your home so that you and your family can pray to the Good Shepherd to send us more shepherds. Pray for your priests. Pray for me. May we all recognize the voice of the Shepherd as those sheep did along the highway in the Holy Land. Only in listening to Him, can we find the peace that our hearts long for.

God bless you all,

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