World Day of Prayer for Vocations

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In the Gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday of Easter the Lord says, “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice”. This is the fundamental Christian vocation – to listen for the voice of the shepherd. We are firstly called to be disciples of the Lord. This is our primary vocation. We need to hear daily, “Come follow me”. And we respond by attuning our minds and hearts to the Lord: “what do you want of me today?” The Lord is the shepherd whom we entrust ourselves to. We know that the Lord watches over us and guides us to green pastures.

The Gospel reading we have just listened to shows the intent of the Lord. He, from the very outset of his public ministry, specifically called some to be his close disciples. Among his broader group of disciples, numbering hundreds, he spoke specifically to some. They received a very personal call. They were to be his close companions to whom he would eventually entrust his great mission – to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth; to be fishers of men.

An initiative of Pope Paul VI, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations began in 1964. It responds in a real way to the Lord's instruction to "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), to the religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic). This Sunday is an opportunity each year not only to pray for but also to bring focus on the need for vocations.

I thank the Sisters here in Carmel for being committed to this request of the popes to pray for vocations on this particular Sunday.

Pope Francis, in his message for this, the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, has highlighted that vocations are born within the Church; the Church is the mother of vocations. It is as the Church lives its vocation to follow the Lord with a lively faith and generous love that vocations emerge. It is when parish communities and other groupings of Catholics sincerely desire to follow the Lord and live by his teaching that young people are drawn to a more intense living of their faith. They experience the joy of the Christian life and are inspired by the Gospel. Then they want to give their lives more fully to the service of Christ and his Church.

Every vocation is not for its own sake. It is for the Church. Indeed as Pope Francis reminds us this year a vocation opens up our horizons to be able to embrace the Church in its fullness. As we walk the path of our vocation we are given a universal sense. We have a strong communal consciousness. We are drawn out of any individualism or self-preoccupation to see the whole panorama of the presence and mission of the Church in the world. Responding to a vocational experience is a way to growth in an ecclesial vision.

We also come to know and discover the Church as mother. Our vocation has been born from the Church and has been nourished in and through the Church. It is sustained by the faith and life of the Church.

Pope Francis has used a very attractive image when he has spoken about vocations. He says in his message for this year: “Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus”. One can only imagine the experience of the first disciples by the Sea of Galilee, and of Matthew, as Jesus gazed at them with an intense love and compassion. They were immediately drawn to him and were willing to abandon all to follow him.

For each of us, this gaze can be experienced. When we turn our attention to the Lord and fix our gaze on him then we experience his gaze on us – as we do when we adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We know that the Lord has called us in a very personal way and that this call is a call motivated by his special love for us.

Today, we reflect on the mystery of vocation. No doubt we consider quietly our own vocation, reaffirming our desire to live our vocation to the fullest.

Today, we pray for vocations. We think particularly of the need here in Tasmania. We pray that men and women may hear the voice of the Shepherd calling them to a life dedicated to him in ordained ministry or in religious life.

Archbishop Julian Porteous.
Saturday, 16 April 2016