Vocations – a letter

My Dear People, Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, named after the fact that traditionally today we have proclaimed to us the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd theme is a rich one throughout the Sacred Scriptures and none more so than when Jesus himself is spoken of as the Pastor.

The adjective used in the Bible is ‘kalon in Greek, which can mean good, faithful or beautiful. Personally I love the description of Jesus as the beautiful shepherd because beauty denotes attractiveness and perhaps that best sums up Jesus success in gathering together the 12. All the Gospel texts tell us that the fisher ­disciples left their nets (some even say immediately) and followed him. Their call was a response to the Jesus whose personality had attracted them and they in turn were faithful in responding to him. True, often they would fail Jesus and not understand what he was trying to teach them. But their encounters with the Lord deepened their friendship with him and from being called in the fullness of time they were also sent. Having known him, having witnessed his deeds and his love-in-action he gradually formed them into Apostles, sent out to proclaim the Good Shepherd’s truth and love to the world.

Today is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Pope Francis has this to say to us:

A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well-cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love. Did not Jesus say:

”By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (In 13:35)?

In other words the Call of Jesus requires a response. Also, the call is not for me alone, but so that I may be sent by the Lord. The call to be a priest, for example, is not for the individual who is called, but so that this man, chosen by Christ can be sent to his brothers and sisters in the Church to love and serve them: to ‘wash their feet’, as the Lord has taught us.

Christ, the Good Shepherd, never ceases to call. But the filters and barriers and attractions and life-styles that young hearts sometimes experience can drown out the call of Jesus. So listening is necessary and listening, not just with the ears, but also with the heart. Listening with our heart is what we call prayer. And it is prayer that brings us to encounter Jesus again and again; it is prayer that enables us to show our fidelity and love for the Lord.

The call to priesthood and religious life is one call among many. But it is never a call to selfishness and self-indulgence. If service and self-offering love are not at the heart of it, then it will not be a genuine vocation. To answer a genuine vocation also needs courage and generosity and perseverance.

Do you have the capacity to love and serve others? Do you have the courage to try to follow Jesus in this dedicated way? Could Jesus the Good Shepherd possibly be calling you to follow him? You won’t know the possibility is there until you consider it.

Yours devotedly in Christ

+ Bishop Stephen Robson
Bishop President of the National Vocations Commission.