The 4th Sunday of Easter is the day of prayer for vocations. Yes, it’s rightly said, “vocations” for we look beyond the traditional tendency to think only terms of priesthood and religious life. We broaden our perception to talk of vocations in the Christian community in which each person has his place and a role to play. That’s why, even before I can open my mouth to say a prayer for vocations, a-twofold-question recoils to me: what’s my calling; and how am I living it out, here and now?
Bible Readings Acts 4: 8-12 Psalm 118: 1, 8, 21-23, 26, 28, 29 1 John 3: 1-2 John 10: 11-18
Christian vocations, pope Francis speaks to us
In his message for the World Day of Vocations the pope proposes to us three aspects necessary for any vocation: to listen, to discern and to live.
To discover our calling, as “God comes silently and discreetly”, we need “to listen carefully to his word…and also to be attentive to the details of our own daily lives, in order to learn how to view things with the eyes of faith, and to keep ourselves open to the surprises of the Spirit”. The challenge before us, is to keep ourselves open to God’s plan, and listen to God’s voice in the midst of the cacophony of voices and the flux of information.
“…each of us can discover his or her own vocation only through spiritual discernment” the pope affirms. But what does it mean to discern? He puts it simply; it’s “a process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord….” And whatever one’s vocation is, the pope reminds us “…. Christian vocation always has a prophetic dimension.” But what does that imply? We find inspiration in the scriptures where prophets are sent in times of “great material insecurity and of spiritual and moral crisis” to speak in “…God’s name a message of conversion, hope and consolation.” A prophet reads the events of life “in the light of God’s promise”; so he’s able to sustain people in hope even in dark times. Each one is to “read within” events of one’s life to discover God’s calling.
Jesus announces his mission to fulfil the scriptures, here and now. And it’s now we are called to participate in this mission; so, it’s today we ought to respond to God’s calling. “Vocation is today!” exhorts the pope, “The Christian mission is now!”
The message of the Pope is summarised just in a sentence: “To listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us.”
This Sunday’s gospel gives us the way to live out our vocation
The model is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who has a warm and personal relation with each one of us. We are not nameless faces lost in a crowd. Different from a hired shepherd who’s ready to bolt at first sign of danger, abandoning the sheep to themselves; Jesus is a shepherd who gives up his life for the sheep. His love is gratuitous; he’s not seeking a personal gain.
The challenge for us today, as his sheep, is how to identify the voice of the good shepherd in the midst of “noises”. There’s need for attentive listening and discerning. We realise also that we are not just beneficiaries of such generous, unconditioned love; we are also called to be generous in our relations with others. For that, we may need to check the temptation of building our life and relationships exclusively around the pursuit of our own interests.
Nevertheless, self-sacrifice is something we are familiar with!
Sacrificing oneself for others is not easy, but not impossible. In fact, it’s something we are familiar with in our daily life. Many are men and women who are living out their vocations in a selfless way. Think of parents who make great sacrifice to raise their children, at times in difficult conditions; civil servants who in the midst of hostility make an effort to accomplish their public function in a prophetic way; persons who volunteer themselves for various causes: for the sick, the aged persons, children in special needs, handicapped persons or for the needy. In fact, there are many other ways through Christians live out their vocation. By every gesture of service, they render present the love and the tenderness of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. So, let’s not forget to pray for all these vocations.
Draw another line, to add another name!
For those visiting the sick, the old aged or helping the needy, I can imagine, they have probably established a list of the persons to visit or the things to do. The checklist serves for efficient organisation. But from the Gospel there’s a cry out: be careful with a fixed checklist. How? Well, Jesus says: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.” What does it mean?
Maybe, we should be careful so that a checklist doesn’t become an instrument of exclusion, thus narrowing our way of living out our vocation. We may say to ourselves, the list is full. Anyhow, here’s a call to look around and see, isn’t there a person forgotten? Isn’t there a lonely person somewhere left with no care? Isn’t there a person excluded from a circle of friends?
So, we are invited to draw another line on our list, to create a place for another name; let’s open the circle to welcome other persons in our circle of relationships.
The day for vocations is about us!
Indeed, praying for vocations is to pray for ourselves so that we, as Christian community, can be attentive to God’s calling, discern our mission in the world of today and, finally, live out such mission, here and now, through the diverse colours of Christian vocations –thus, we radiate the love and the tenderness of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
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