Pastoral Letter on Good Shepherd – Vocation Sunday
Responding to God’s Call with Courage and Joy!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Rejoice in the Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep! (cf. John 10:7). On the 4th Sunday of Easter the Church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday together with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, reminding ourselves at the same time that the Synod of Bishops will be meeting in Rome this October on the theme of “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
The Diocese has decided, and I hereby gladly declare, that a Youth Festival starting in the 2nd week of July 2018 will be held in Hong Kong as part of our activities for the Diocesan Year of Youth. There will be a second collection at the Saturday Anticipatory Masses on 14 July as well as at all the Sunday Masses on 15 July in parishes throughout the Diocese for funding youth activities and development. These efforts will form part of a larger and longer-term campaign to marshall and secure the necessary resources. Details will be announced in due course after further discussion and consultation with all stakeholders. Meanwhile I humbly appeal to all of you for your earnest prayers and generous support.
Each one of us, young and old alike, has a vocation, a call to mission. Indeed, at the end of each book of the Gospel, Jesus Christ tells his disciples to preach the good news of salvation to all nations, a mission that the Risen Lord has consigned to all his followers to accomplish in their different roles so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and lived in faith, hope and charity in our daily lives. He is ever willing to bestow the joy, peace and vitality of life brought by his resurrection on everyone who accepts him.
Vocation Sunday rightly has, as its primary focus, the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, particularly among those who are young. “The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.” (Matthew 9:37, Luke 10:2 ). But when imploring the Lord to send more labourers to the harvest every believer must also respond to an even more basic and personal call namely the call to “belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6) and participate in his redemptive work. This is reflected in Jesus Christ’s own words: “I am the Good Shepherd. I know mine and mine know me”. (John 10:14). “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. Those also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
It is only when we have this deep sense of belonging to Jesus Christ, and to one flock under one shepherd, that we will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, discern what the Father’s will is for us at every moment of our lives. It is only then that we will listen to his Son’s voice and respond with courage and joy to his call. Our Lord will give us the strength to get off the couch and out of our “comfort zone.” As Pope Francis said to young people on World Youth Day held in Poland: “Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.”
Pope Francis, almost immediately after saying these words, felt that frankness with young people demanded that he should make it clear that a pair of “walking shoes” might not be tough enough to do the work. He replaced them with a pair of boots and he stressed that even then there would be risks. But have no fear because Jesus is the Lord of risks!
So to those of you who are young, I humbly say again and acknowledge that there is indeed a need and much room for continuing dialogue and frank respectful exchanges of views over a whole range of topics affecting the Diocese. There is, if I may honestly say so, much to learn from you—including but not restricted to your ideas, your enthusiasm, energy, dynamism, creativity, courage and willingness to take risks, without which nothing great can or has ever been achieved. The Church needs you in the “new evangelization.” Jesus Christ needs you!
Saying “yes” to the Lord’s call does entail giving up “possessions” not necessarily of material wealth as in the gospel story of the rich young man who asked Our Lord, “Good Teacher, what must I do ?” (cf Mark 10.17-22, Matthew 19: 16-22 ; Luke 18:18-23). Let me recall the words of St Pope John Paul II which he addressed to youth concerning the look of love which Jesus gave the young man (even though, as it transpired, he did not accept Jesus’ invitation):-
“May you experience a look like that! May you experience that truth that he, Christ, looks upon you with love…! My wish for each one of you is that you may discover this look of Christ and experience it in all its depth.. Man needs this loving look. He needs to know that he is loved, loved eternally and chosen from eternity” (Letter to Youth, n. 7).
I gratefully invoke these sentiments not only for the sake of the young people but also for the sake of the not so young among us who have contributed so much to the whole-person education and welfare of youth and of the Diocese and of Hong Kong as a whole and to express deep appreciation to everyone concerned.
I would like to thank also all those who have worked and prayed for vocations in Hong Kong, whether individually or in groups, including especially such lay organizations as part of their vocation, to be special friends of seminarians, priests and consecrated people, something which Pope Francis at the last Serra International Convention in Rome singled out as worthy of praise and gratitude and as a vocation in itself. Please continue to pray for vocations !.
Let us all turn to Holy Mary, Mother of God, and reflect on her consecrated life together with Jesus in Nazareth for 30 years. The last words recorded in scripture as coming from the Mother of Jesus were the five words: “Do whatever he tells you !.” (John 2:5) Pray for us, Blessed Mother of all young people, so that all will be under God’s guidance and protection always!
+ Michael Yeung Bishop of Hong Kong Good Shepherd Sunday 2018