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Today I have come across three different descriptors for 25th April: Anzac Day (of course), World Day of Prayer for Vocations and Good Shepherd Sunday. Which of these takes precedence in preparation for and celebration of liturgy next Sunday?
In the church’s liturgical calendar, next Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter and it is Easter - the Resurrection - that we celebrate first and foremost on this day and every day of the Easter season.
Of course we mark Anzac Day by participating in civic services, attending city parades and so on, but it is not the focus of Sunday Mass. Because no commemoration can replace a Sunday of the Easter season, the Anzac Day Mass cannot be celebrated and the prayers and scriptural readings of the day take precedence over those set down for Anzac Day.
The texts for the Fourth Sunday of Easter are very appropriate for Anzac Day anyway. This section of the second reading from the book of Revelation for example, will have added poignancy and meaning on this day:
These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
as will these words from the Gospel:
Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.’
These two readings show clearly why the Fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’.
The Easter II Preface is especially apt:
He has made us children of the light, rising to new and everlasting life.
He has opened the gates of heaven to receive his faithful people.
His death is our ransom from death; his resurrection is our rising to life.
The last verse of the psalm offer words of comfort and hope to those who have been affected by war in any way:
Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age.
The commemorative of Anzac Day can be acknowledged in the liturgy through the decoration of the church, the choice of hymns, the homily and the prayers of intercession. Some parishes fly the Australian flag on Anzac Day. I wonder if it is ever appropriate to display the national insignia of a particular group in church which is meant to be a place where ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female’. The allegiance which draws us together for liturgy transcends cultural and national boundaries.
The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is best marked through a petition in the Prayer of the Faithful, by including information such as relevant websites in the parish bulletin, and by giving parishioners a prayer card to use for family and individual prayer during the week.