A Scripture reflection for May 8, 2022 – the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

There is a memorable scene towards the end of the movie, Titanic. As the ship is preparing to take its final plunge into the cold waters of the Atlantic, Jack Dawson and Rose are hanging straight down from the edge of the ship. Jack turns to Rose in the dramatic moment and tells her, “Don’t let go. Whatever happens, don’t let go.”

Have you ever been tempted just to let go? Have you ever been tempted just to say, “the heck with it, it’s too much!” Sometimes in life we’re tempted to give up. We’ve all gone through difficult times when suffering seems to overwhelm us.  Life can be overwhelming. Family can seem to be more of a burden than a gift; work can stress us out. We encounter countless difficulties that sometimes can seem insurmountable.

This Sunday is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday. In the Gospel today we hear Jesus speaking about himself as a shepherd: “I know my sheep, and they follow me.” A shepherd knows his sheep; a shepherd looks out for his sheep; a shepherd protects his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for us so that we may have eternal life. As our Good Shepherd, we belong to him and through him, to the Father.

The words in that scene from Titanic have probably rung true for many of us at one point or another, “Don’t let go. Whatever happens, don’t let go.” My friends, for us it’s not so much about our “holding on” as it is knowing that we are always in the Lord’s hand, in his loving care. The Lord does not let us go. and Jesus tells us in the Gospel that he knows us. Imagine: God knows us, and he knows us intimately. He has counted every hair on our heads.  He knows our fears, our hopes, our dreams. He knows the plan he has for our life. And we are in his hands. He is our Shepherd; he is leading us.

Why worry about the future when it’s not here? Why dwell on the past when it is gone? Why let problems in the present take away our peace when the Good Shepherd is here with us in the present? We are in his hands and he does not let us go.

Just as he does not let us each go, he does not let us all—the Church—go, either. Today, along with being Good Shepherd Sunday, is the World Day for Prayer for Vocations. The Good Shepherd is always calling others to follow him. The Good Shepherd is always at work in his Church raising up men to be shepherds after his own heart. The Good Shepherd is always calling men to the priesthood and women to the religious life. Again, God knows the plan he has for each of our lives; we simply need to surrender to it. I would like to gently challenge single men and women today to open their hearts to Christ’s call to the priesthood and religious life. I’d like to challenge parents to nurture the call to the priesthood and religious life in their families. It’s a life of selflessness and service; a life modeled after Christ. What a beautiful life it is.

“Don’t let go. No matter what happens, don’t let go.” The Good Shepherd does not let us go. There is, however, a certain kind of letting go that we need to do: it’s surrendering to his will for us. The Serenity Prayer can help us become open to God’s will for us here and now:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

We can let go if it means we are surrendering to God’s will. God knows the plan he has for our lives and asks us to be open to it. We receive peace when we follow where our Good Shepherd leads.

Image Credit: Photo by Jaka Škrlep on Unsplash 

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Fr. Michael Najim was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Providence in 2001. He currently serves as the pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Westerly, RI.

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