In the gospel reading Jesus identifies himself as the shepherd: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His Jewish listeners must have gasped in shock to hear him say that. This is because, for Jews, the shepherd of the flock of Israel is none other than the Lord God himself (Psalm 23:1). Jesus went on to make explicit what is implied in his claim to be the shepherd of the God’s flock when he said, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). That the Father sent Jesus and delegated him with full authority to act in His name is only half of the story. The other half of the story is that Jesus in turn delegated his chosen disciples to act with full authority in his name. We see this in the first farewell ceremony with his disciples as recorded by John. He commissions and delegates his disciples in these words:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).
Some people today would gasp at the thought of an ordinary human being forgiving the sins of other ordinary human beings. The Jews of Jesus’ time also gasped at the thought of their countryman Jesus forgiving the sins of his contemporaries. This does not make much sense when one considers only the human factors involved. But when one looks at it with the eyes of faith, one begins to see that it is God Himself who has taken the initiative to send Jesus and equip him with “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Similarly, it is Jesus who takes the initiative to call those he chooses: “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16). And he equips them with the same power of attorney which the Father delegated to him. That is why he could say, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). This is the mystery of the call of God.
As we pray today for an increase in vocations let us also pray for a better understanding and appreciation of the life and work of ordained ministers so that more and more people avail themselves of the grace which God makes available through them. Let us also pray that more young people will be drawn to follow in their footsteps and generously answer the call of God.
By E. Ezeogu
Painted by Sieger Köder