Good Shepherd Sunday
“Good Shepherd Sunday” is today’s name. Every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we hear read one of the three parts of Jesus’ Good Shepherd Discourse. If you want a good subject for meditation, you can read the entire discourse in John 10:1-30. Christ preaches this message to his disciples prior to going up to Jerusalem and before his crucifixion and death. However, we have the opportunity to reflect on it after our memorial of Christ’s death during Holy Week. We can only assume that this teaching about laying down one’s life for the sheep is meant to prepare and strengthen the hearts of the disciples. For us, it is given in the Easter season so that we can be ever more thankful in our praises to Christ who was slain for our sins. Let us pray fervently and constantly for our shepherds, the bishops. May the Lord keep them faithful in their service, steadfast in their pursuit of what is right and just in the Church, and humble in service to God’s flock who is entrusted to their care.
Speaking of shepherds, I am very grateful for the bishop’s presence this Tuesday, the 27th. He will celebrate Mass at 6pm and dedicate the new altar top by prayer and anointing. It is a ritual that is filled with so many beautiful signs and rituals that point toward the centrality of the Eucharistic sacrifice in parishes and, therefore, the love that the faithful are to have toward the altar.
During the Mass of Dedication, a consecrated altar stone containing the relics of the martyrs St. Vitalis and St. Cletus will be sealed into the altar top as a sign of the connection between the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the martyrs. It is customary to deposit and seal into new altars the relics of martyrs. St. Vitalis was a citizen of Milan. After he was inspired by the courageous martyrdom endured by Ursicinus in Ravenna, Vitalis carried his body off to give him a proper burial. When the governor heard of this, Vitalis was arrested and tortured in many ways, even by stretching on the rack. He was buried alive. His wife tried to flee Ravenna. She was also apprehended and, after refusing to take part in a the debauchery of a pagan festival, beaten to death. St. Cletus (known also as Anacletus) was the third bishop of Rome and mentioned in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I). A disciple of St. Peter, he was pope for twelve years until 89 A.D. Nothing for certain is known of his martyrdom, but early Church tradition has always given him the title of martyr. St. Vitalis’ feast day is April 28, the day after the altar’s dedication. St. Cletus is celebrated in the Roman Calendar on tomorrow’s day, April 26, each year.