“Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest (Matt 9:38).”
A vocation is a gift from God to an individual person, inviting him or her to live out the call to holiness in a specific state of life. Some are called to marriage and family life. Others the Lord invites to follow Him as priests or consecrated men and women. If you feel the Lord calling you to the priesthood or consecrated life (of which religious life is a part), don’t be afraid!
On April 21, 2013, Good Shepherd Sunday and World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis gave a beautiful reflection on vocations. Take some time to reflect on these words of our Holy Father:
Fourth Sunday of Easter is characterized by the Gospel of the Good Shepherd – in the tenth chapter of St. John – which we read every year. Today’s passage contains these words of Jesus: ” My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one”(10.27 to 30). These four verses contain Jesus’ entire message, the core of His Gospel: He calls us to participate in His relationship with the Father, and this is eternal life.
Jesus wants to establish a relationship with his friends that is a reflection of His relationship with the Father, a relationship of mutual belonging in full trust, in intimate communion. To express this deep understanding, this relationship of friendship Jesus uses the image of the shepherd with his sheep: he calls them, and they know his voice, they respond to his call and follow him. How beautiful this parable is! The mystery of the voice is suggestive: from our mother’s womb we learn to recognize her voice and that of our father, from the tone of a voice we perceive love or disdain, affection or coldness. The voice of Jesus is unique! If we learn to distinguish it, He guides us on the path of life, a path that goes beyond the abyss of death.
But at a certain point Jesus, referring to his sheep, says: “My Father, who has given them to me…” (Jn 10,29). This is very important, it is a profound mystery, that is not easy to understand: if I feel attracted to Jesus, if his voice warms my heart, it is thanks to God the Father, who has put in me the desire of love, of truth, life, beauty … and Jesus is all this to the full! This helps us to understand the mystery of vocation, particularly the call to a special consecration. Sometimes Jesus calls us, invites us to follow him, but maybe we don’t realize that it is Him, just like young Samuel. There are many young people today, here in the square. There are many of you! So many of you young people present today in the square!
I would like to ask you: have you sometimes heard the voice of the Lord which through a desire, a certain restlessness, invites you to follow Him more closely? Have you heard it? I can’t hear you…there you are! Have you had any desire to be apostles of Jesus? Youth must spend itself for high ideals. Do you think so? Do you agree? Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave! Be brave, ask Him!!! Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life, is always the strong and intense prayer of someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a community … That’s why Jesus said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest – that is, God the Father – to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38). The vocations are born in prayer and from prayer, and only in prayer can they persevere and bear fruit. I like to underline this today, the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” We pray especially for the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, whom I had the joy of ordaining this morning. And we invoke the intercession of Mary. Today there were 10 young men who have said “yes” to Jesus and were ordained priests this morning … This is beautiful! Let us invoke the intercession of Mary who is the woman who said “yes.” Mary said “yes,” all her life! She has learned to recognize the voice of Jesus since she bore him in her womb. Mary, Our Mother, help us to know better the voice of Jesus and follow it, to walk the path of life!