The fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally remembered as Good Shepherd Sunday and our Holy Father Pope Francis has declared this Good Shepherd Sunday to be a World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
In today’s brief but powerful gospel passage, Jesus speaks about Himself as our shepherd. His words speak about us who belong to Him and about His enduring promise to us: My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
The voice of Jesus came to us differently. We hear His voice through our Mother which we honor today on Mother’s Day or our father, our brothers, sisters, and friends. Especially, many of us recall hearing the of Jesus speaking through our parish priest, religious brothers, and sisters, teachers, co-workers, etc. Who serves as our friend, mentor, and guidance. We hear His voice that gives an impact on our lives. We become who we are now because of His voice through others. That voice of a good shepherd with its message of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and newness of life came to us in different ways. When we identify ourselves with Jesus, we hear His voice and came to know and trust in Him. We follow in love, wanting to be in a deep relationship with Him through others.
As we celebrate today the World Day of Prayer for vocations, we are called to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into the fields (Mt. 9:38; Lk. 10:2) to bring to him a holy and dedicated people. We pray that young men and women hear and respond generously to the Lord’s call to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, societies of apostolic life, or secular institutes.
We also reflect on our responsibility – a responsibility that belongs to every member of the Church – to foster vocations. We allow ourselves to be the voice of Jesus calling men and women to a dedicated life of service, to be the presence of the Good Shepherd in our world that is so much in need of Him.
The Pope’s message in his annual World Day for Prayer for Vocation 2022 titled “Called to Build the Human Family,” reflected on the broader meaning of ‘vocation’ within the context of a Synodal Church: “a Church that listens to God and the world.”
In the message, he emphasized that vocations have a communal as well as a personal dimension. He wrote: “Each of us shines like a star in the heart of God and the firmament of the universe. At the same time, though, we are called to form constellations that can guide and light up the path of humanity, beginning with the places in which we live.”
“This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences, a sign, and instrument of all that humans are called to be.”
“For this reason, the Church must become increasingly Synodal: capable of walking together, united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.”
He underlined that the word “vocation” should not be understood as referring only to priests and religions.
“All of us are called to share in Christ’s mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God,” he said.
“Each man and woman, even before encountering Christ and embracing the Christian faith, receives with the gift of life a fundamental calling: each of us is a creature willed and loved by God; each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God.”
“At every moment of our lives, we are called to foster this divine spark, present in the heart of every man and woman, and thus contribute to the growth of a humanity inspired by love and mutual acceptance.”
“God’s loving gaze always meets us, touches us, sets us free, and transforms us, making us into new persons. That is what happens in every vocation: we are met by the gaze of God, who calls us.”
Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to welcome God’s gaze and enter into a “vocational dialogue” with the Lord and others. He said that this dialogue “makes us become ever more who we are.”
“In the vocation to the ordained priesthood, to be instruments of Christ’s grace and mercy,” he wrote. “In the vocation to the consecrated life, to be the praise of God and the prophecy of a new humanity. In the vocation to marriage, to be mutual gift and givers and teachers of life. In every ecclesial vocation and ministry that calls us to see others and the world through God’s eyes, to serve better and to spread the love with our works and words.”
Let us be hearers and followers of the voice of the Shepherd.
Let us be an instrument of God’s loving presence as a Good Shepherd in our world today.