Vocation is how we live our lives as followers of Christ. Vocation is much more than a job or career, its a way of life, a pathway where best we can be in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Vocation to Priesthood and religious life is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Easter also called Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus the Good Shepherd, who cared for his flock with compassion, sensitivity and inclusion. By his life, Jesus presents the gift of vocation as a radical service that is counter cultural. Giving without counting the cost. Seeking out the lost, the marginalised, befriending the stranger, embracing those who are cast to the periphery and often the victims of Gossip, racism and discrimination. A christian vocation is to live lives that build those cornerstones of our heritage, faith hope and love. Vocation is lived by all who are baptised in rich and varied roles.
However it is a worthy endeavour “To ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to the harvest” I find priesthood to be an exciting and wonderful vocation. This June, I celebrate 18 happy years in challenging times, as a priest. Would I do it again….absolutely !! Priesthood is a very special gift. Its an invitation from the Lord to serve and when we serve well, we as priests receive great joy and inner peace. A good pastor models his life on Jesus the Good shepherd. A priest who is present, available, kind and encouraging. A shepherd who finds inner peace and brings calm and confidence to so many seeking a listening and compassionate response often in moments of crisis and uncertainty. Parishes need shepherds of love wounded by their vulnerability and as a result bring warmth and empathy to those seeking the Lord.
This is a fantastic time to consider what does it mean to serve the Lord as a priest or religious. Pope Francis reflects on this invitation from his message on this Good Shepherd Sunday….
“The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a “cage” or a burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking. He opens before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch.
God in fact desires that our lives not become banal and predictable, imprisoned by daily routine, or unresponsive before decisions that could give it meaning. The Lord does not want us to live from day to day, thinking that nothing is worth fighting for, slowly losing our desire to set out on new and exciting paths. If at times he makes us experience a “miraculous catch”, it is because he wants us to discover that each of us is called – in a variety of ways – to something grand, and that our lives should not grow entangled in the nets of an ennui that dulls the heart. Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us.
Embracing this promise naturally demands the courage to risk making a decision. The first disciples, called by Jesus to be part of something greater, “immediately left their nets and followed him” (Mk 1:18). Responding to the Lord’s call involves putting ourselves on the line and facing a great challenge. It means being ready to leave behind whatever would keep us tied to our little boat and prevent us from making a definitive choice. We are called to be bold and decisive in seeking God’s plan for our lives. Gazing out at the vast “ocean” of vocation, we cannot remain content to repair our nets on the boat that gives us security, but must trust instead in the Lord’s promise.
In encountering the Lord, some may feel the attraction of a call to the consecrated life or to the ordained priesthood. It is a discovery that can excite and at the same time frighten us, since we feel called to become “fishers of men” in the barque of the Church by giving totally of ourselves in commitment to faithful service of the Gospel and our brothers and sisters. Such a decision carries the risk of leaving everything behind to follow the Lord, to devote ourselves completely to him, and to share in his work. Many kinds of interior resistance can stand in the way of making this decision, especially in highly secularised contexts where there no longer seems to be a place for God and for the Gospel. And yet, there can be no greater joy than to risk one’s life for the Lord! I would like to say this especially to you, the young. Do not be deaf to the Lord’s call. If he calls you to follow this path, do not pull your oars into the boat, but trust him. Do not yield to fear, which paralyses us before the great heights to which the Lord points us. Always remember that to those who leave their nets and boat behind, and follow him, the Lord promises the joy of a new life that can fill our hearts and enliven our journey”
LORD of the Harvest,
BLESS young people with the gift of courage to respond to your call.
Open their hearts to great ideals, to great things.
INSPIRE all of your disciples to mutual love and giving—
for vocations blossom in the
good soil of faithful people.
INSTILL those in religious life, parish
ministries, and families with the confidence
and grace to invite others to embrace
the bold and noble path of a life
consecrated to you.
UNITE us to Jesus through prayer and sacrament,
so that we may cooperate
with you in building your reign of mercy
and truth, of justice and peace. Amen.