Please find the joint newsletter for the Fourth Sunday of Easter attached below:
Fr Chris’ weekly message
One by one The scene in this weekend’s first reading could not have taken place under our present lockdown: Peter addressing a crowd of people and three thousand being baptised because of his preaching. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1960s when the number of people attending Mass in the Liverpool Archdiocese reached its peak of 242,000 every Sunday. Even before the Coronavirus closed our churches, weekly Mass attendance was down to around 40,000 and who knows how many people will return to regular Sunday Mass once the restrictions are lifted. Some people may be reluctant to gather again after so many weeks of staying home. Others who had long ago given up coming to church may have realised during the lockdown how much they miss and need the Eucharist, so perhaps that will balance out. Do these numbers matter?
The phrase that struck me from today’s Gospel about Jesus being both the true shepherd and the gate of the sheepfold was ‘one by one’: the real shepherd doesn’t lead his flock out all together but calls them one by one, and one by one they recognise his voice and follow him.
This Good Shepherd Sunday is the time when we pray most especially for ‘vocations’. We used to think of it just as praying that men and women would answer God’s call to serve God’s people in the priesthood and the religious life, and these days we would of course want to add the diaconate, because our Church needs priests, deacons and religious to carry out their specific ministries in service of the whole community. We sometimes spoke as if they were the only people who had a vocation, but the Church has always taught that each baptised person is called, individually and by name, to follow Christ and be his disciple, and in recent times we have come to realise more fully the dignity and challenge of the vocation of all the baptised.
So perhaps the question this Gospel poses to each of us is not, ‘When I get back to church, how many other people will be there?’ but ‘Am I listening for the voice of Jesus calling me by name to follow him?’ If each baptised person, one by one, was ready to leave the safety of the sheepfold and follow wherever the shepherd leads, I don’t think we would have to worry about the numbers. Fr Chris