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Vocation and vocations

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Fourth Sunday of Easter.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This fourth Sunday of Easter is designated as Good Shepherd Sunday because the readings invite us to contemplate Jesus Christ in that role, tending to us, his sheep and literally giving up his life for our sake.

It is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Through an initiative of some of you, we will begin to offer Mass in our parish every Thursday for an increase in vocations to priesthood and religious life.

Just this Saturday, five new priests have been ordained in the Archdiocese of Miami. Let us pray for them that they may be holy priests.

Bearing in mind this day, I offer a fragment of Pope Francis’ message for this year. It is my hope that it will move your hearts to pray with renewed fervor so that the Good Shepherd gives us priests after his own heart, as He promised through the prophet Ezekiel and also that he may show us all the way to the realization of our most fundamental vocation: holiness.

“The Lord’s call makes us bearers of a promise and, at the same time, asks of us the courage to take a risk, with him and for him.  I will do this by reflecting briefly with you on these two aspects – promise and risk – as they appear in the Gospel account of the calling of the first disciples by the sea of Galilee.

Two pairs of brothers – Simon and Andrew, and James and John – are going about their daily tasks as fishermen.  In this demanding work, they had learned the laws of nature, yet at times, when the winds were adverse and waves shook their boats, they had to defy the elements.  On some days, the catch of fish amply repaid their efforts, but on others, an entire night’s work was not sufficient to fill their nets, and they had to return to shore weary and disappointed.

Much of life is like that.  Each of us tries to realize his or her deepest desires; we engage in activities that we hope will prove enriching, and we put out on a “sea” of possibilities in the hope of steering the right course, one that will satisfy our thirst for happiness.  Sometimes we enjoy a good catch, while at others, we need courage to keep our boat from being tossed by the waves, or we are frustrated at seeing our nets come up empty.

As with every call, the Gospel speaks of an encounter.  Jesus walks by, sees those fishermen, and walks up to them…  The same thing happened when we met the person we wanted to marry, or when we first felt the attraction of a life of consecration: we were surprised by an encounter, and at that moment we glimpsed the promise of a joy capable of bringing fulfilment to our lives.  That day, by the sea of Galilee, Jesus drew near to those fishermen, breaking through the “paralysis of routine”.  And he immediately made them a promise: “I will make you fishers of men”.

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”.  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…

On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us join in prayer and ask the Lord to help us discover his plan of love for our lives, and to grant us the courage to walk in the path that, from the beginning, he has chosen for each of us.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid