MESSAGE FOR THE 54th WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
Sunday, May 7, 2017
In the last few years, we have considered two aspects of the Christian vocation: the summons to “go out from ourselves” to hear the Lord’s voice, and the importance of the ecclesial community as the privileged place where God’s call is born, nourished and expressed.
Now, on this 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I would like to reflect on the missionary dimension of our Christian calling. Those drawn by God’s voice and determined to follow Jesus soon discover within themselves an irrepressible desire to bring the Good News to their brothers and sisters through proclamation and the service of charity.
Commitment to mission is not something added on to the Christian life as a kind of decoration, but is instead an essential element of faith itself. A relationship with the Lord entails being sent out into the world as prophets of his word and witnesses of his love.
In the depths of their hearts, all disciples hear this divine voice bidding them to “go about,” as Jesus did, “doing good and healing all.”
To be a missionary disciple means to share actively in the mission of Christ. Jesus himself described that mission in the synagogue of Nazareth in these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is also our mission: to be anointed by the Spirit, and to go out to our brothers and sisters in order to proclaim the word and to be for them a means of salvation.
Our mission might appear to be mere utopian illusion or at least something beyond our reach. Yet if we contemplate the risen Jesus walking alongside the disciples of Emmaus, we can be filled with new confidence. Jesus transformed the disciples’ discouragement. He made their hearts burn within them, and he opened their eyes by proclaiming the word and breaking the bread. In the same way, we do not bear the burden of mission alone. We come to realize, even amid weariness and misunderstanding, that “Jesus walks with us, speaks to us, breathes with us, works with us”.
The seed of the Kingdom, however tiny, unseen and at times insignificant, silently continues to grow, thanks to God’s tireless activity. God surpasses all our expectations and constantly surprises us by his generosity. He makes our efforts bear fruit beyond all human calculation.
With this confidence born of the Gospel, we become open to the silent working of the Spirit. There can be no promotion of vocations apart from constant contemplative prayer. Our life needs to be nourished by attentive listening to God’s word and, above all, by the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in the Eucharist, our privileged encounter with God.
I wish heartily to encourage this kind of profound friendship with the Lord, above all for the sake of imploring from on high new vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. I ask parish communities, associations and the many prayer groups present in the Church, not to yield to discouragement but to continue praying that the Lord will send workers to his harvest.
Dear brothers and sisters, today too, we can regain fervor in preaching the Gospel and we can encourage young people in particular to take up the path of Christian discipleship. Despite a widespread sense that the faith is listless or reduced to mere “duties to discharge,” our young people desire to discover the perennial attraction of Jesus, to be challenged by his words and actions, and to cherish the ideal that he holds out: a life that is fully human, happy to spend itself in love.
Mary Most Holy, the Mother of our Savior, had the courage to embrace this ideal, placing her youth and her enthusiasm in God’s hands. Through her intercession, may we be granted that same openness of heart, that same readiness to respond, “Here I am,” to the Lord’s call, and that same joy in setting out, like her, to proclaim him to the whole world.