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BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY

Father Francis's picture
Fourth Week of Easter

John 10:11-18

This is Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday. A little thought can help us to see the connection between the two titles. In today’s Gospel Jesus compares a “hired man” a “good shepherd” - the difference was their level of commitment at the point of crisis. There would come a day in the lonely desert when the flock was threatened by wolves. The hired man would flee in order to save his own life but the good shepherd would stay and, if necessary, die protecting the flock.

Then Jesus went on to identify Himself as the Good Shepherd,. “I lay down my life for My sheep. No one takes it from Me; I lay it down of my own free will.” When Jesus went to Calvary He was behaving in a realm above and beyond the call of duty.

In every walk of life there is a minimum amount of duty that is required of us. An employee is expected to start work at a certain time, to remain on the job for a certain number of hours and do certain things while there. To meet these demands is that individual's duty. The same is true of family life. To be a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, demands that certain basic duties be performed. Children must be provided with food, clothing and shelter; and the law requires that they be treated humanely. These are obligations that must be met. In every role in life it is the same, for the student, the public official, the priest, the parishioner ...

But there is another truth we need to consider and that is the greatness of life which lies in the realm of giving beyond the call of duty. Jesus is remembered and revered as the Good Shepherd because He voluntarily took on Himself what no one could possibly have demanded. It is in this sense that His Cross touches our lives at every point and influences every relationship.

Students discover the joy of learning when demanding of themselves more than the teacher requires. Family life takes on beauty and meaning when husband and wife, parents, and children begin to give themselves in ways that no law could ever demand. Work becomes a privilege and a pleasure when a person stops thinking in terms of a minimal response and begins to function in the realm above and beyond the call of duty.

Certainly, we should recognise that all genuine Christian living belongs in this class. It consists in breaking free from, and rising above all legalism, to do what no law can require of us and no person can demand. This is the very essence of the life and teaching of Jesus. “Whoever would compel you to go with him one mile go two.” To be like Jesus is to say, “Whatever life demands of me, I will give and do more.”

People can be divided into three groups. Firstly, there are those who refuse to face up to their duties, the lawless who are be dealt with through the courts of law. Others do their duty and nothing more, the law-abiding citizens whose standards comes from custom and society. Thirdly, there are those who require of themselves what no legal system could ever expect, the people who bear the brunt of the load and give strength of character to church, community and nation. If a person is going to move into that realm of giving beyond the call of duty, only Christ can cause him to do that.

In turn, when a person feels that something so great has been done that the debt can never be repaid, it does something to that individual's life that nothing else can do. This is the message of today’s Gospel reading. “The Good Shepherd is the One who lays down His life for His sheep. No one takes it from Me; I lay it down of My own free will.” That kind of sacrifice calls for living above and beyond the call of duty.

Every one of us has our own vocation in life, to be parents, priests or religious, or to the single life. Our profession is our vocation, too, be it a doctor, a teacher, a technician and so on. Whatever it is, because we are Christians, doing the bare minimum is not enough. Our vocation is to be generous, to sacrifice self and to live above and beyond the call of duty.

Lord Jesus, may each one of us follow our vocation after the example of Christ our Good Shepherd.

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