Saturday, April 20, 2013

4th Sunday in Easter (C)
Vocation Sunday
Shepherd & Stylist (Version 2)

Picture: cc emrank

Dear sisters and brothers, do you have a regular hairstylist? How do you go about choosing one? The story is told of a tourist passing through a small town, who decided that he needed a haircut. After walking around a bit, he discovered that the town had only two barbers, each of whom ran his own shop. The two barbershops were located directly across the street from each other. As the tourist walked by, he saw that the shop on the left was very messy. There was hair all over the floor. And not only did the barber look extremely harassed, he also had a very bad haircut. The shop on the right, however, was just the opposite. The place was neat and the floor spotless. The barber looked really cheerful and relaxed. He also sported a very stylish looking hairdo. After observing all this, the tourist quickly made up his mind. He walked into the shop on the left. The messy one.

Sisters and brothers, why do you think he did that? If you were in his shoes, would you have done the same? To be honest, I would probably have gone into the other shop instead. And the reason is that, in making my decision, I would have been listening to a voice in my head telling me that a good barber should have a cool haircut and a clean shop. But our tourist was listening to some other voice. One that told him something different. For one thing, if the barber on the left looked harassed and his shop was dirty, it might well be because he had many customers. Which would be, of course, a sign that he did good work. Also, assuming that barbers don’t cut their own hair, and bearing in mind that there were only two barbers in town, it was very likely that these men cut each other’s hair. Which meant that their hairstyles were an indication not of their own skills, but those of their competitor’s.

All of which goes to show that when you are choosing a barber, it’s very important to examine your assumptions. To pay careful attention to the voices you are listening to in making your choice. And if this is true of choosing someone to style your hair, isn’t it even more true if you are choosing someone to shape your life? Today, perhaps more than ever before, many of us enjoy a wide range of lifestyle choices. But how do we going about making up our minds? What voices do we listen to? Which life-stylist do we end up choosing?

These are among the questions that our readings invite us to ask ourselves on this Vocation Sunday. For what is Jesus doing in the gospel today, if not presenting himself to us as the best life-stylist we can ever hope to have? Even more than a comfortable lifestyle, to all who choose to follow him, to all who allow him to shepherd them, Jesus promises nothing less than eternal life. He promises that those who follow him will never be lost. This, of course, sounds very attractive. But there is also something  deeply shocking. Even more shocking perhaps than a good hairstylist sporting a very bad haircut.

What image comes to your mind when you think of a good shepherd? For the people of Jesus’ time, shepherd was a word that they used to refer to their king. And the greatest of all their kings was, of course, David, who though he was small in size, proved himself strong enough to slay the fearsome giant, Goliath. For the Jews, to be a shepherd was to be a great king. A mighty warrior. But look at the image given to us in the second reading today. Here, we find ourselves in the throne room of a great king. A shepherd who will lead us to springs of living water. Someone through whom God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. But notice also what this shepherd king looks like. Even more shocking than a messy barber with a bad haircut, here we find a shepherd who has become a sheep. And not just any sheep, but a lamb – the weakest and smallest of sheep. And not just any lamb, but a lamb that has been slain. Whose blood has been shed for the life of his sheep. If this image doesn’t unsettle us, it’s probably because we have grown too familiar with it. We’ve forgotten what it means to follow a shepherd who is also a slaughtered lamb.

Which is why the experiences of Paul and Barnabas in the first reading are so helpful. They show us that to follow this shepherd, who is also a lamb, we the sheep must be willing to become shepherds ourselves. For it is as shepherds that Paul and Barnabas travel from place to place, proclaiming the Good News to all. The first reading also reminds us that those who adopt this lifestyle will have to face and to accept trials. Even  persecutions. Although Paul and Barnabas succeed in inspiring many to accept Jesus, their popularity incites jealousy and anger. Resulting in their being expelled from the city.

But if this lifestyle is so shockingly unattractive, how do we bring ourselves to choose it? Like that tourist looking for a haircut, the choice we end up making depends upon the voices that we pay attention to. In our world today, there are many voices that tell us how foolish it is to follow the Good Shepherd. Consider, for example, the voice of consumerism. Without our realising it, this voice often leads us to assume that happiness is measured only by the things we own. Or by the status we attain in society. If you live in public housing, work towards owning private property. If you have a Toyota, work for a Lexus. If you have a Timex, work for a Rolex. In contrast, in the gospel, Jesus says: the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. And this voice of the Good Shepherd speaks to us not of constant consumption but of care and compassion. The same care that made Paul and Barnabas such courageous shepherds. The same compassion that turned Jesus into the Lamb of God. The one slain for our salvation.

Sisters and brothers, today is Vocations Sunday. The day when we pray especially for more good vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. And that is, of course, a very praiseworthy thing to do. But isn’t it true that, as much as we may pray for others to find their vocations, we also need to remember that each of us has a vocation of our own? The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare, which means to call. And it is not just priests and religious who are called. Rather, whether we are married or single, young or old, male or female, by the very fact of our baptism, we are all called to heed the voice of the Good Shepherd. The same voice that continually speaks to us of the importance of care and compassion. The voice that constantly challenges us to reach out and to shepherd others. Especially those most in need of our help.

Sisters and brothers, on this Vocations Sunday, whose voice are we hearing? Which life-stylist are we choosing today?


  1. Let all who are called into HIS FLOCK, let them recognise the VOICE of the Lord - the voice of the GOOD SHEPHERD, whenever HE calls...

    May the Lord keep all HIS SHEEP safe in HIS TENDER LOVING CARE, always.


  2. If Someone who has been by your side when you were feeling down in spirit, lost in the darkness, and not knowing what to do, but came to your rescue; talked to you and slowly brought you out of the misery, like how the Psalmist wrote in Chap. 40:

    Surely, I wait for the Lord;
    who bends down to me and hears my cry,
    Draws me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the muddy clay,
    Sets my feet upon rock,
    steadies my steps,
    And puts a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn to our God.
    Many shall look on in fear
    and they shall trust in the LORD.

    Our Lord/life-stylist, has waited ever so patiently for those who has wandered off to return. He is waiting for the right time to haul those who has fallen up in His arm and set them upon sturdy rocks. Softly, Our Lord has whispered His words of healing to us, wanting us to place our trust in Him. He has touched us by His unconditional, undemanding, unselfish and merciful love. Would we not believe in Him? Just like the homily intro for this morning’s mass, Father mentioned this verse (which reminded me of this movie “Sister Act” screened many years’ back):

    I will follow him
    Ever since he touched my heart, I knew
    There isn't an ocean too deep
    A mountain so high it can keep
    Keep me away, away from his love

    Peace be with you.

  3. thank you for breaking the word with beauty and simplicity.


  4. Friday - 4th Week of Easter 2013

    O Risen Lord and Saviour,

    Lord, in the midst of my trials and daily challenges, amidst the many distractions and the "other" voices in my life, unless I keep close to You, unless I listen to You and obey Your voice within me, I can be easily drawn AWAY from You...

    Lord, I am weak and I am helpless in the face of my trials, doubts, difficulties and challenges... Draw me close to You, especially during my weakest and most helpless moments... Lord, never let me be parted from You.

    For You, O Lord, You are the WAY to the Father, You are the TRUTH who sets us free and You are LIFE eternal.

    Without You, I am nothing and my life would be an existence devoid of meaning.

    Lord, unto You I commend my whole being and my life. Lord, please mould me and shape my life according to Your plan and Your will. Amen.

    Peace and All Good.


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