In his message for the 60th World Day of Prayer for Vocations (Good Shepherd Sunday), Pope Francis reflects on how vocation is both a ‘grace’ and a ‘mission’.

‘This day is a precious opportunity for recalling with wonder that the Lord’s call is grace, complete gift, and at the same time a commitment to bring the Gospel to others,’ he says. ‘Led by the Spirit, Christians are challenged to respond to existential peripheries and human dramas, ever conscious that the mission is God’s work’.

God’s call comes in unexpected ways

Pope Francis remarks on how unexpectedly God’s call may come. He shares the story of how, as a young man in 1953, he stopped by a church on the way to school and felt mysteriously prompted to go to confession. ‘That day changed my life and left a mark that has endured to the present day,’ he says. ‘In all the ways he calls us, God shows infinite creativity.’

Although God’s call might only be heard gradually, it is ‘the secret of our happiness’, the discovery of a treasure we can’t but help share with others. The pontiff says:

The gift of vocation is like a divine seed that springs up in the soil of our existence, opens our hearts to God and to others, so that we can share with them the treasure we ourselves have found. This is the fundamental structure of what we mean by vocation: God calls us in love and we, in gratitude, respond to him in love.

No vocation without mission

In this way, ‘There is no vocation without mission,’ he goes on. ‘There is no happiness and full self-realization unless we offer others the new life that we have found. God’s call to love is an experience that does not allow us to remain silent.’

We go wrong, however, if we think the mission relies on our own efforts or abilities: ‘it is the result of a profound experience in the company of Jesus.’ The disciples on the road to Emmaus felt their hearts burn within them in the company of Jesus. This story serves as an ‘icon’ for this experience of evangelisation.

We should then see vocation as ‘a gift and a task, a source of new life and true joy … To bring life everywhere, especially in places of exclusion and exploitation, poverty and death, in order to enlarge the spaces of love, so that God may reign ever more fully in this world.’

A vocational symphony

No matter what our vocation is, we should see our lives as a mission ‘to give ourselves in love’. This mission is originally born from baptism but finds it unique and ‘concrete’ expression in whatever state of life we find ourselves called to.

This might be the calling to family life, to be a ‘domestic church’; to enter consecrated or religious life; to be a deacon, priest, or bishop; or simply to be a lay man or woman acting as ‘leaven’ in society. Whatever the case, no one is called alone. In the Church, God called together a community with ‘a variety of charisms and ministries.’

Only in relation with all the others, does any particular vocation in the Church fully disclose its true nature and richness. Viewed in this light, the Church is a vocational ‘symphony’, with every vocation united yet distinct, in harmony and joined together in ‘going forth’ to radiate throughout the world the new life of the kingdom of God.

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