April 17, 2016 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 13:14.43-52; PS 99:1-3,5; REV 7:9.14-17; JN 10:27-30    ]

In the first reading, we read of the opposition that the apostles faced in preaching the gospel.  This is not something that happened in the past only.  Even today, when we stand up for Jesus and the gospel, those whose lives are affected by our values will attack us vehemently.  In truth, we have no issues when the world cannot agree with our Catholic values.  If we are merely unable to agree on the truth, we can agree to disagree in humility and charity.   We do not impose our views, much less our morality, on others who do not believe in the gospel.

But often under the guise of disagreement over a truth, the underlying reasons have to do more with ego, pride, jealousy and most of all, loss of money, power and influence.  A case in point is when Catholic values affect the earnings of the entertainment industry, e.g. concerts, movies and TV serials that promote promiscuity, sex and sensuality.  Whether we speak out against the pseudo arts or the use of contraceptives or gambling, the truth hurts when it affects their businesses and revenues.  As a consequence, the world will do anything to silence us, just as what they did to the apostles.  So too those whose selfish values are being challenged by the proclamation of the gospel will stir others to attack the Church and what we stand for, to discredit us and seal our lips. And they will make use of those people who have been hurt by the scandals of the Church to discredit the truth of what we are saying.  We read how they “worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory.”

So what must we do in the face of a hostile relativism in our prevailing climate?  What is ironical is that the minority has the loudest voice in society. In truth, most Catholics and believers of other faiths when challenged on the values of truth and love remain silent.  Few would speak out for Jesus and the gospel. By and large, the majority is silent, preferring to watch on the sidelines the unfolding battle between truth and falsehood, just like the disciples who stood from afar watching Jesus hang on the cross.  Such an attitude of pacifism ultimately works against the interest of our people, not just the Church.  If our young people only listen to the loudest voice, which is the minority voice, very soon, what is a minority position becomes the majority voice; what is falsehood is perceived as truth.  When falsehood is not exposed and truth is hidden, our people will eventually be wrongly influenced and imbibe all the wrong values because they only listen to the voice of the world.

In the gospel today, Jesus makes it clear when He said, “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”  Do we know Jesus?  The irony is that Jesus knows us but in truth not many of us, including Catholics, know Jesus!  If they know Jesus, how could they be listening to the voice of the world instead of the gospel?  If they know Jesus, why are they following the wrong shepherds, wolves disguised as the shepherds of the world?  Even many so-called professed Catholics do not follow the teachers of Christ appointed to safeguard the truth and unity of His Church.  Instead, our Catholics take their moral compass and values from the internet, the newspapers and the world.  When they disagree with the gospel teachings or the Church, they would say, “Oh, the Church is old-fashioned and outdated!”  But if we reject any part of the bible, we will end up rejecting the whole bible because we cannot pick and choose what we like in the Word of God.  St Augustine has this to say, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

But where is the voice of the shepherd today?  Do we have true shepherds like Jesus who can lead us to the fullness of life?  Indeed, today, we not only have a dearth of shepherds but good, holy courageous and exemplary shepherds, be it in the religious community, at home, at work or in society and politics.   What does it take to qualify ourselves as good shepherds?

Firstly, good shepherds are courageous in standing up for what is true and good.  We lack courageous shepherds who are ready to stand up for what they believe, and selfless shepherds who put the interests of the sheep and their flock before their own. Genuine shepherds desire only what is good and best for those under their care.  Their only objective is to lead those under their charge to the pastures of life.  True shepherds are not hireling but those who would stand up for their sheep, fight against potential enemies; and enlighten them so that none would fall away or be led astray or get hurt.  Good shepherds will always do what is truly good for the family, society and nation, always fostering peace, justice, progress and unity.  This is what the apostles said when they were rejected by those who had no real interests for the people.  They said, “We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans.”

Secondly, good and true shepherds are ready to be the sacrificial lambs, as the second reading tells us.  If Jesus were a true shepherd, it was because He offered Himself as a sacrificial lamb without blemish for the salvation of humanity.  In other words, He offered His life and sufferings for the good of all so that He could save souls, heal wounds and empower lives. Like the early Christians, we must be ready to go through the persecution and be washed clean in the blood of Jesus. This is what was said of them.  “These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and because they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.”

Thirdly, good shepherds are also conscious that they are merely stewards of God’s sheep.  Our children, our workers, our Church members, our citizens do not belong to us but to God.  We must never forget that we are all sheep primarily.  There is only one Good Shepherd, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ who has been appointed by the Father to shepherd His Church.  The responsorial psalm says, “Know that he, the Lord, is God. He made us, we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”  We are only guardians of His flock.  The sheep do not belong to us but to God.  For that reason, we act as His guardians and take good care of the sheep for Him.  It also means that we are accountable to the Lord and we cannot dispose of the sheep as if they are our property.  At the end of the day, we will be held responsible if the sheep under our charge is stolen by the world.  We have a duty to safeguard our sheep, regardless of the state of life we are in.  

Finally, good and true shepherds are those who are one with Jesus in mind and heart.   We need to walk in the truth by listening to Jesus if we were to lead others in the truth.  Can we say with Jesus, “The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father.  The Father and I are one.”  Are we one with the Father?  We cannot lead unless we are first led by the Good Shepherd.   Are we sharing the same mind and heart and seeking to do His will as Jesus did?   If we never pray, never read the Word of God, never celebrate the Eucharist with devotion and love, how could we ever say that “the Father and I are one”?   If we want to align ourselves with the Lord, then we must be in union with Him in thought, word and deed. 

Now, if we are all shepherds according to our vocation, whether as parent, teacher, doctor or lawyer, then who looks after the shepherds?  This is where Good Shepherd Sunday, whilst promoting all forms of vocation, gives special attention to the priestly vocation.  It is not because the other vocations are not, or less important than the priestly vocation.  Rather, the primary purpose of the ministerial priesthood is to support all vocations in the world.

Hence, today, Good Shepherd Sunday is also celebrated as a day of prayer for all vocations with special attention to the priestly and religious vocations. Priestly vocations are critical to the other vocations in the Church.  If our laity is not nurtured with the Word of God, given guidance and understanding of the gospel and direction in life, how can they lead those under their care?   If our laity is deprived of the Eucharist or the Sacrament of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick, who will nurture and heal their souls so that they can find strength again to reach out to others?  And how can our laity live out their vocation of married life if not for the grace that comes from the sacrament of matrimony?  So like the apostles who encouraged the Christians, we too need priestly shepherds after the heart of Christ to encourage us and to empower us in our vocations in life.

Let us therefore, whilst celebrating our own vocation in life, and being more responsible shepherds after the heart of Christ to those under our care, also ensure that we are growing in union with the Lord in mind and heart.   To this end, we also pray for more priestly and religious vocations in the Church so that we always have shepherds to help all of us who are shepherds of Christ to the world.  But it is not enough to have more vocations.  We must also pray for holy, good, selfless and courageous shepherds for the Church.  Finally, let us not forget to pray for our shepherds so that they can lead us in wisdom, in compassion, in truth and love to the springs of living water.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Retrieved from

Entry filed under: Catechesis.

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