Message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations 2010

Brothers and sisters,

On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations in the Year of the Priest, we, as your bishops, would like to pay attention to the concept of vocation.

Abraham, ‘the father of all faithful’, was tasked by God: “Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a country which I shall show you”. God promised that he would bless Abraham and make him the father of a great nation. Abraham went while Sarai, his wife, and he were of advanced age and without children. Why did Abraham trust God’s promise? He had heard the voice of God and that was enough for him. He placed his fate in God’s hands and left for an unknown country, where he would live as a stranger with God’s promise as his only certainty.

God calls people and that radically changes their lives. That also happened to Mary. The angel told her she was ‘blessed’ and would bear a son. But she had no sexual relations with the man to whom she was engaged. Her son would sit on David’s throne and his kingship would have no end. But she was poor and had no contacts with any royal court. Why did Mary place her trust in the words of the angel? What convinced Mary was that for God anything is possible. She said she was willing and answered: “Let it happen to me as you have said”.

Abraham, the father of all faithful, and the mother of the Church, Mary, were told about God’s plan for their life and they submitted to that. Their fate was not pressed upon them, but they become fascinated by God’s presence. They know, “It is well”.

Yet it may confuse you when God calls you to a special task. The prophet Jeremiah’;s first response was, “No, I can’t do that”, and the prophet Jonah ran away from his task. Young Samuel heard the voice of God in the night and yet had to learn to say, “Speak, Yahweh; for your servant is listening”.

The fact that God calls people is a mystery. To your amazement you may discover that God asks something from you. When Pope John Paul II looked back on his vocation to the priesthood, he wrote: “The history of my vocation? Only God knows that. Every calling to the priesthood is in essence a great mystery, as well as a gift that far transcends men” (Gift and Mystery, 1996).

Not just Abraham and Mary, the prophets and Karol Wojtyla were called by God. God envisions a goal for every person. We received our life from God in order to reflect the love that exists in God Himself. Our fundamental calling to the calling to love.

God made is in His image. And He invites every person to realise themselves according to this image. This image of God in people is inexhaustible. Every is called to express a special aspect of God’s thoughts (Nieuwe roepingen voor een nieuw Europa, closing document of the European conference on vocation to the priesthood and religious life in Europe, Rome, 5-10 mei 1997, 6). There are, then, many ways in which God calls people to love. Sometimes a loving devotion to our fellow man seems something ordinary: a natural love for your family or a serving presence for your ailing father or mother, wife or husband. This love creates an atmosphere in which it is good to dwell. God can also call you to reflect His tenderness and care in a medical profession or in education. In politics you can communicate something of God’s charity and peace. Our calling to love can take shape in our work, in dealing with colleagues and customers. God’s mercy may be our guide in the care for the poor, refugees, migrant and the lonely. God wants to unite all people in love with Him and each other, under the guidance of Christ. God calls you to work towards that by witnessing of the Gospel and through prayer. That is the vocation of all Christians.

God calls some faithful to a special dedication to Him. When God calls someone to the priesthood or the diaconate, this person may be of service to the Church, he may show how the Church receives her life from Christ and he may go into the world to preach the Good News. Through ordination the deacon becomes similar to Christ who has become the deacon, meaning the servant of all. The priest acts because of his ordination in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church, represent Him in person in celebrating the Eucharist and has the power to forgive sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). In religious life one may experience the friendship with Jesus in a fraternal life, a life of prayer and adoration and a life of service to one’s fellow men. When God calls you to live celibate, you can count on Him also giving you the strength to fulfill that; you will experience that God alone is enough.

Being open to God’s will requires a daily willingness to listen. Every day we can search for what God asks of us, through reading the Bible and through prayer. That is how we open ourselves to God’s calling voice.

God still calls people to the priesthood, the diaconate and the religious life. Our secularised culture does not make it easy to answer to that call. let us therefore, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, pray together to the Lord of the harvest, the Good shepherd par excellence, that He may also call people to be priests, deacons or religious in this country, and that He may give them the strength they need to say “yes” to their vocation.

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