Pope Francis releases his Message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Fourth Sunday of Easter – also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.
Pope Francis reflects on the theme “Vocation: Grace and Mission” in his Message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, saying, “This day is a precious opportunity for recalling with wonder that the Lord’s call is grace, a complete gift, and at the same time a commitment to bring the Gospel to others.”
The Day of Prayer for Vocations falls each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, when the Church reads the Gospel passage of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-10). The Day is marked this year on Sunday, 30 April.
In this year’s Message, the Holy Father emphasises that each human person is chosen by God, “created by love, for love, and with love, and made for love.” Recalling his own call to the priesthood, Pope Francis explains that God’s call “tends to make itself known gradually,” and one that calls for a response on our part. “Vocation is ‘the interplay between divine choice and human freedom’ … God calls us in love and we, in turn, respond to Him in love.”
At the same time, the Pope continues, “God’s call … includes a ‘sending’. There is no vocation without mission.” Pope Francis once again highlighted that every baptised Christian is called “to bear joyful witness” to our experience of Jesus through spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In service to God and our fellow human beings, “we come to understand the heart of the Christian vocation: to imitate Jesus Christ, Who came to serve, not to be served.”
The Holy Father then takes up the image of the disciples on the road to Emmaus after the death and resurrection of Christ, and reminds the faithful that our vocation is not a result of our own “abilities, plans, or projects,” but stems from “a profound experience of Jesus.” The Pope prayed that every man and woman “might feel called to arise and go in haste, with hearts on fire,” like those disciples.
“May every man and woman feel called to arise and go in haste, with hearts on fire.”
Finally, Pope Francis noted that God’s call comes within the community of the Church. The Church, he said, “is an Ecclesia, the Greek word for an assembly of persons called and convened, in order to form the community of missionary disciples of Jesus Christ committed to sharing love among themselves and spreading that love to all others, so that God’s kingdom may come.”
All the members of the Church – lay women and men, consecrated religious, and ordained ministers – have a role to play in the mission of spreading the Gospel. “Only in relation with all the others,” the Pope said, “does any particular vocation in the Church fully disclose its true nature and richness.” In this light, he continued, “the Church is a vocational ‘symphony,’ with every vocation united yet distinct, in harmony and joined together in ‘going forth’ to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God.”
Concluding his Message, Pope Francis described vocation as “a gift and a task, a source of new life and true joy.” And he invited the faithful to make their own the prayer composed by Pope St Paul VI for the first World Day of Prayer for Vocations: “O Jesus … continue to draw to Yourself ardent and generous souls from among the young, in order to make them your followers and your ministers…”
“O Jesus, divine Shepherd of souls, you called the apostles and made them fishers of men. Continue to draw to yourself ardent and generous souls from among the young, in order to make them your followers and your ministers. Give them a share in your thirst for the redemption of all… Open before them the horizons of the entire world… By responding to your call, may they prolong your mission here on earth, build up your Mystical Body which is the Church, and be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world.’”