In 1992 a young man named Allen Mark was condemned to death in New York City for raping and killing a young lady. Before the capital punishment was pronounced, Allen became friends with a catholic priest, who visited him frequently. Whenever the priest visited him in Jail he saw a picture of the Good Shepherd hung on the wall of his cell. As the day of his death was approaching, one day, the priest out of curiosity asked him about the significance of the picture of the Good Shepherd on the wall of his cell. Allen told that he became an orphan at the age of 10. His father was an alcoholic and was harassing his mother. One day he died of an accident. Two years later his Mom of also died of cancer. Before her death she gave him the picture of the good shepherd saying that in any trouble he has to pray to the Good Shepherd. But unfortunately Allen himself became a criminal and raped a girl and put her to death. Now he was serving this death sentence and finally the day arrived. On the day of his capital punishment, the police asked the young man for the last wish to be fulfilled. Allen requested the priest to bring the picture of the Good Shepherd. Allen reverently kissed it and prayed for a while. Here comes the miracle: Just before the execution the father of the girl murdered shouted, ‘Allen is innocent, Allen is innocent’. Because of that incident the judiciary could not implement his execution. Later Allen was sent to jail, and then released. Allen directly went to the father of the girl and fell at his feet asking why he prevented his execution. The father said the picture of the Good Shepherd in search of the lost sheep prevented it and he would accept Allen as his son.
In the short passage that we just heard, that Lord said three times, “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for my sheep.” What is this Good Shepherd that Jesus is trying to tell us? Jesus is trying to tell us that His love for us is total, selfless and unconditional. Unconditional in the sense that, He is even willing to lay down his life and die for our sake. He does this because in Matt 9:36 and Mark 6:34 we read. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. So Jesus laid down his life for them by teaching them the true way of living. He became the sheep who became the victim in saving the other sheep, especially the lost one. Jesus is a unique good shepherd because He would not only give ideas and new insights into life, but he would give his own life to save the lost. “I have come that they may have life, and may have it in all its fullness” (John 10:10). It is easy to give ideas and doctrines, but difficult to give ones life. Our blessed Lord did nothing but give his life to save us and give us life everlasting. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd we too are called to be the shepherds.
Coming from a big family of eleven members gave me a great child hood with wonderful memories. Staying together in a big family gave me the spirit of sharing and a mentality of self sacrifice. Brought up in an average middle class family in a third world country gave me enough understanding of family life with its hardships. I started the journey of my life in a remote village in India and now ended up in Memphis, Tennessee. During this journey of my life I have seen so many verities of people. They were all sorts of people with different needs. Some of them were people who had lost their land. There were people who experienced the cruelty of the mighty. There were some who were alienated from the society. There were the sick, the hungry and the thirsty, and there were others who were homeless, destitute, and marginalized. I realized that very often they were in that condition because the good things in life were taken away from them by those who are powerful in society who amassed for themselves economic, political and cultural supremacy at the expense of others.
When I saw all these people my heart was moved with compassion because they needed someone’s guidance and help. Reading the Bible and the life history so many saints helped me to understand and admire the personal example of sacrificial giving of time, talent, and treasure which they cheerfully, enthusiastically presented to the needy people. Without them, who were willing to step forward and lead the people, they would be truly lost. That is the reason and inspiration of me being a Catholic priest. This gives me a tremendous responsibility of sharing the burdens, trials and tribulations of my fellow brothers and sisters through the confessional, outreach, and daily contact and counseling. When I first joined the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, 30 years ago, I too had my apprehension of what religious life would mean and could be for me. Today I would say with much gratitude to God, that my life, as a priest and religious, has been the happiest and most beautiful and the most fulfilling vocation that I can ever imagine my life to be. I feel so honored to be called by God to be His instrument.
No matter whatever your state of life is, you are called to be a good shepherd. It means, like Christ Jesus you have to give yourselves selflessly for your spouse, your children, family and even beyond your home to the needs of others. Then only we become a true sheep of the Good Shepherd. Do you care for others? Are you a giver or a taker? The word ‘vocation’ has a much broader wider meaning. Every single one of you has a vocation. You may be a spouse, parent, teacher, doctor, civil servant, a business man, salespersons… or whatever. And if you are making any kind of positive difference to other people’s lives, then you are a good shepherd. Today let us ask ourselves: How can I become a good shepherd in my family life in my Parish life and in the world!
By Sam Alzheimer
This coming Sunday, Catholic parishes will no doubt honor mothers in the congregation. But because May 12 is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations, some priests will wonder how they can also work in a vocations message at Mass.
Why not do both? Below is the story that illuminate the connection between motherhood and vocations. After all, what does every priest, brother, and sister have in common (aside from a love of God, the Church, and the Eucharist)? They all have mothers!
- When the Pope Kissed His Mother’s Ring
Pope Pius X (1835-194) was a very humble man and had a saintly mother, Margarita Sanson. Because they were so poor, she worked as a washer woman and a school janitor to earn enough money so that he could go to the seminary. (In those days, the family had to pay for the seminarian’s education.) When he was installed as Pope, his mother was present, and as was the custom, she kissed his large papal ring. She then presented her tiny hand with her wedding ring and said, “Now you kiss my ring—for without it, you never would have received yours!”