This weekend we celebrate the World Day of Vocations, an annual celebration on what we often refer to as Good Shepherd Sunday since in all three cycles of the Third Sunday of Easter the theme is Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Shepherding and Vocations are a natural combination since every vocation has an aspect of shepherding, but especially one to priesthood, diaconate or the consecrated life. This year Pope Francis has written a special letter for this occasion which, as usual, contains excellent commentary and advice. Much of it can be applied to all of us, no matter our age or stage of life, but I hope young adults and millenials in particular will read and reflect upon it as they are searching not only for the careers they would like but more importantly for how God might be calling them to live and serve.
“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 fulfillment 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’ (Mk 1:17).
“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.
“I think primarily of the call to the Christian life which all of us received at Baptism. It teaches us that our life is not a fluke but rather a gift: that of being God’s beloved children, gathered in the great family of the Church. It is precisely in the ecclesial community that the Christian life is born and develops, especially through the liturgy. The liturgy introduces us to God’s word and the grace of the sacraments. From an early age, we are taught the art of prayer and fraternal sharing. In the end, the Church is our mother because she brings us to new life and leads us to Christ. So we must love her, even when we see her face marred by human frailty and sin, and we must help to make her ever more beautiful and radiant, so that she can bear witness to God’s love in the world.
“The Christian life thus finds expression in those decisions that, while giving a precise direction to our personal journey, also contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom in our world. I think of the decision to marry in Christ and to form a family, as well as all those other vocations associated with work and professional life, with the commitment to charity and solidarity, with social and political responsibilities, and so forth. These vocations make us bearers of a promise of goodness, love and justice, not only for ourselves but also for our societies and cultures, which need courageous Christians and authentic witnesses of the kingdom of God.
“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 secularized contexts where there no longer seems to be a place for God and for the Gospel, places where it is easy to grow discouraged and fall into the ‘weariness of hope.’
“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 paralyzes 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.
“Dear friends, it is not always easy to discern our vocation and to steer our life in the right direction. For this reason, there needs to be a renewed commitment on the part of the whole Church—priests, religious, pastoral workers and educators—to provide young people in particular with opportunities for listening and discernment. There is a need for a youth ministry and a vocational promotion that can open the way to discovering God’s plan, above all through prayer, meditation on God’s word, Eucharistic Adoration and spiritual accompaniment.
“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.”
For more information about becoming a Franciscan friar, please contact us at [email protected] or phone at 312-853-2384.
For information about the diocesan priesthood, you may call the Archdiocesan Vocation Office at 312-534-8298.
For information about a vocation to become a Religious Sister, you may call 312-534-5240.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Witnessing to the Good News of Jesus Christ can be fraught with danger, but we can be assured that we will be victorious if we heed the voice of the Good Shepherd.
In the First Reading, we hear of Paul and Barnabas’ missionary work in Antioch of Pisidia. We see that their message is not well received by some of their Jewish brethren, which provides the context for their declaration that God has sent them to be a light to the Gentiles. Persecuted and expelled from the region, they move on in joyful confidence that their mission has been inspired by God. A word of caution: we should not take Luke’s words as a condemnation of Judaism. Rather, he was simply trying to give a reason for why the Good News spread beyond its original boundaries to the rest of the world.
The Second Reading provides a commentary on John’s vision of a great multitude of people in white robes—a symbol of victory—carrying palm branches, typically used to greet kings returning from battle. An elder informs him the people are the martyrs who endured the great persecution. God now shelters them, and the Lamb shepherds them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus assures his followers and warns his detractors by saying that he knows his sheep and they know him. His sheep hear his voice and, because he gives them eternal life, no one can harm them ever.
The Second Vatican document Lumen gentium references passages from the Old and New Testaments as it uses the metaphors of sheepfold and flock for the Church and shepherd for Christ. The document states: “The church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary entrance to which is Christ. It is also a flock, of which God foretold that he would himself be the shepherd and whose sheep, although watched over by human shepherds, are nevertheless at all times led and brought to pasture by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and prince of shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep” (#6).
We see God’s love for humankind as Christ in the Gospel notes that he has given eternal life to his sheep. This love moves the People of God to spread the Good News. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “It is from God’s love for all humanity that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, ‘for the love of Christ urges us on’” (#851).
For Your Reflection: When has doing the Lord’s work filled you with joy? Do you find it comforting that the People of God are called “the sheep of his flock?” How can you make time to listen to God’s voice?
A LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us to be a living expression of God’s kindness, showing the light of God’s goodness and mercy to all of our brothers and sisters, but especially to the poor, the vulnerable, and those facing challenging circumstances. Each year on Mother’s Day, Catholic Charities invites us to be a living expression of God’s goodness through our gift to the Catholic Charities Mother’s Day Collection. With our support, Catholic Charities carries out the important work of the Church to help the poor and vulnerable in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
People often come to Catholic Charities at the most difficult times of their lives—hungry, afraid, hurting, alone, homeless, helpless, hopeless. Catholic Charities cares for people at these desperate times, helping them rebuild their lives and restoring hope for the future.
Catholic Charities provides a broad range of services to people of all ages and at every stage of life, regardless of religion or background. Whether it’s helping young mothers with pregnancy and parenting services, offering educational and support programs for at-risk children and teens, counseling those facing addiction, mental illness or grief, delivering emergency assistance to families coping with homelessness and hunger, or providing affordable housing and a variety of in-home services for seniors, Catholic Charities brings Christ’s love and mercy to the people and the places that need it most.
We each have an important role to play in the Church’s sacred mission to care for those in need. Please accept my sincere gratitude for your past support of the Catholic Charities Mother’s Day Collection, and please consider being as generous as you can again this year. Contributions can be made during the second collection on Mother’s Day, anytime at www.catholiccharities.net/donate, or mail your gift to Catholic Charities, 721 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL 60654.
May God bless you and those you love this Mother’s Day and always. With every good wish, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
On this Mothers Day we want to wish all mothers, grandmothers, and mothers-to-be a very happy day. Mothers do so much to show their love, care and concern to their children and thereby help them to understand God’s great love for them as well. So often it is mother who goes out of her way to “make everything ok” in the midst of hurts of all kinds, who hold everything together in the midst of chaos and confusion at home, and who are the intercessors between siblings from time to time. Moms, thank you for all you do day in and day out. May you be blessed not only today but everyday now and forever.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE EASTER SEASON
Recently one Congressman from a Bible Belt congressional district was asked about his attitude toward whiskey.
The politician responded, “If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life, and inflames sinners, then I’m against it.”
He continued, “But if you mean the elizir of Christmas cheer, the shield against winter chill, the taxable potion that puts needed funds into public coffers to comfort little crippled children, then I’m for it. This is my position, and I will not compromise!”