“Hello bro, the Church celebrated the Good
Shepherd Sunday, and at the same time they are talking about Vocations Sunday.
What is the connection? Just thinking aloud”
(Yahweh – Christ – Peter – Bishops –
Dear bro, this little illustration would make
sense to you if you go through this post.
To begin with, if you go through the Old Testament meticulously,
you would discover that God (Yahweh) was identified as the Shepherd of Israel;
as One who leads and guards his flocks (his people). For example, in Psalm 80:1 “Oh, give
ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock…” Also in Psalm 100:3 “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made
us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  The psalmist in psalm 23 also identified God
as his shepherd: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” Also in Ezekiel
34:31, God himself says: “As for you, my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, you are men, and I am
your God,” declares the Lord GOD.”

This concept of “shepherd” was richly
used in the Jewish parlance due to the fact that it had a lot to do with their
way of life and it was a common occupation at that time (rearing of sheep etc.)
Hence, using it in relation to humans does not mean that humans are sheep or animals,
but it simply denotes its analogical meaning. A shepherd is one who takes care
of his sheep (feeding, nourishing, protecting, nursing, catering for their well-being
etc.) This is also known as pastoring.
Isaiah 40:11 – Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm
He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the
nursing ewes.”
When Christ came, he did not distant
himself from this reality. Being united and equal with the Father said: “I am
the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). In the gospel reading of Sunday, April 17 (4th
Sunday of Easter), Christ said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they
follow me. I give them eternal
life, and they shall never perish. No
one can take them out of my hand. My
Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:27-30)
After his resurrection, and knowing
that he has little time to spend with his children, he entrusted His Office of
Pastoring/Shepherding the “flock” of God to the Apostles. In fact he made Peter
the “Chief Shepherd” of the entire flock. He said: “Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these
others do?…feed my sheep… Feed my lambs…etc. When we read in between the
lines, we would discover that Christ was not asking Peter to feed animals. No.
In the gospel according to John, John makes use of analogies and symbols to
pass his message. (For example, bread of life, true vine, good shepherd, salt
of the earth, light of the world etc.) Thus, this clearly points out the divine
preference made by Christ on Peter and portrays the role of St. Peter as a
“Spiritual father” in feeding, nourishing and taking care of the
whole Children. This function is clearly understood within the “sitz im leben”
(life setting) of the Jews as one who leads, one who nourishes, one who takes
care of the whole, etc. put differently, it denotes a fatherly role. Hence, we
come about the title “Pope” which comes from the Latin word
“Papa” simply means “Father”.
The Roman Catholic Church combines this belief with
the concept that Peter became the first Pope (Father of the flock of God) and
the bishop of Rome, and that the Roman bishops that followed Peter were
accepted by the early church as the central authority among all of the
churches. This is what we call “apostolic succession”. The doctrine of
apostolic succession is the belief that the 12 apostles passed on their
authority to successors, who then passed the apostolic authority on to their
successors, continuing throughout the centuries, even unto today. Apostolic
succession, combined with Peter’s supremacy among the apostles, results in the
Roman bishop being the supreme authority of the Catholic Church today.

We cling tightly to this tradition because it’s true, and because all
Christians are commanded to do so by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2
Thessalonians 2:15. For biblical corroboration look at Acts 1:21-26, where
you’ll see the apostles, immediately after Jesus’ Ascension, acting swiftly to
replace the position left vacant by Judas’s suicide. They prayed for guidance,
asking God to show them which candidate was “chosen to take the place in
this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away.” After choosing
Matthias they laid hands on him to confer apostolic authority.

The role of apostolic succession in preserving true doctrine is illustrated in
the Bible. To make sure that the apostles’ teachings would be passed down after
the deaths of the apostles, Paul told Timothy, “What you have heard from
me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach
others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). In this passage he refers to the first three
generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation,
and the generation Timothy will teach. Look at 1Timothy 1:6 and 4:14, where
Paul reminds Timothy that the office of bishop had been conferred on him
through the laying on of hands
. Notice in 1Timothy 5:22 that Paul advises
Timothy not to be hasty in handing on this authority to others
. In
Titus Paul describes the apostolic authority Titus had received and urges him
to act decisively in this leadership role.

Today, we can see that the present Pope and the Bishops are the successors of
the Apostles, and this mandate of shepherding or pastoring extends also to the
priests as well. Hence, this is how we come about with the idea of vocations. Consequently,
the Church in all her wisdom set the Sunday aside as “Vocations Sunday”. On
this Sunday we continue to pray for the increase in vocations to the priesthood
and religious life; asking God to grant that the Church would never lack Shepherds/Pastors
to feed and cater for the spiritual needs of the people of God. May God
continue to touch the hearts of young men and women to embrace this clarion call.
I urge you to continue to pray for all those who have already embraced this call
of God, for the grace of perseverance and total dedication.
I hope this answers your question…


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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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