My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand. That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all: and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father. I and the Father are one.
— St John x, 27-30
This was the Gospel passage read at Mass to-night, which marked this as Good Shepherd Sunday (OF), when in our Easter joy we adore Jesus as our Shepherd, who is truly good: ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός: "good" is really inadequate, for the word means also "beautiful", "admirable", "excellent" and much more.
Our visiting priest preached a little on the deep truth that God calls each and every one of us, and that this calling (expressed in our Baptism) is our vocation – our calling home to God, which we each are to live throughout life. Soon-to-be-Blessed John Henry Newman was quoted, referencing his famous words:
1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.
2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.
O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.
— Meditations on Christian Doctrine, I. Hope in God—Creator, (2) March 7, 1848
Before Mass, I'd been to confession – that sacrament which is indeed an act of worship, testifying to our true, felt need to always "come back to the Father" – and had been very much consoled when Father reminded me that God's love for me is a far, far stronger thing than my love (as a mere creature) for God.
This in turn now reminds me of what "the sacred monster of Thomism", Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., called "the principle of predilection": one would not be greater than another did not God love that one more. I have received so many blessings of nature and, I believe, of grace: in this I have proof of the great love that God has for me, because all I have, and am, is His gift. God does not love because one is good, no; rather, God's love is active and creative: one whom God loves is made to be good.
How the Gospel corroborates this! God's choice and election of His beloved cannot be overcome: they are His: "no one can pluck them out of My hand". "Paschal triumph, Paschal joy, / Only sin can this destroy: / From the death of sin set free / Souls reborn, dear Lord, in Thee." Great St Pius V died with these wonderful words of song on his lips:
Quæsumus, Auctor omnium,
In hoc Paschali gaudio,
Ab omni mortis impetu
Tuum defende populum.