World Day of Prayer for Vocations

In today’s gospel Jesus employs the image of a shepherd to describe his relationship to us, his sheep. We are happy to be his sheep because we know his voice; we trust him; he protects us from evil and he gives us life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” He also speaks of himself as the gate for the sheep. In this image he is the way to salvation:

“Whoever enters through me will be saved.” This is similar to his declaring later in John’s gospel: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

In the Church Jesus calls men to shepherd his flock as bishops, priests and deacons. Furthermore he calls men and women to consecrate themselves in religious life to guide the flock to the kingdom by their example of vowed poverty, chastity and obedience. Today the Church throughout the world observes a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Pope Benedict has chosen as this year’s theme, “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church.” He explains:

Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by “other voices” and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations. It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable them to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond “yes” to God and the Church.

In this year’s message Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the importance of prayer in promoting vocations, in imitation of Christ calling his disciples:

In the first place, it is clear that the first thing he did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father (cf. Luke 6:12) in a spirit of interior detachment from mundane concerns. It is Jesus’ intimate conversation with the Father which results in the calling of his disciples. Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the “Lord of the harvest,” whether in parish communities, in Christian families or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.

For the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 48th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, go to the Vatican web site www.vatican.va and click on “Latest Updates.”

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