As we celebrate the World Day of Prayer of Vocations, it is good for all of us to reflect more deeply on the mystery of life, the mystery of our own particular life. Life is a gift from God, freely given to us. What is the purpose of this life? God created us out of love and loves and cares for us each and every day. We are called to return love for love by loving God and by loving each other.
There are many ways in which we can love each other, instanced in the many different roles one can play in the family, in society and in the church. Within the family there are the different vocations of father, mother, child, brother, sister. In society we serve in one of a wide range of professions or work situations. In the church we serve as a priest, Sisters, Brother, deacon, single lay person, married lay person. As Christians, whether in the family, in society or in the church, all of us may, and indeed must, aspire to serve in love, responding to God’s love for us.
As we pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, we are praying that God may enlighten the hearts of many of our Catholic faithful to listen to the call to serve in love in the church.
In his message for the 39th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, “The Vocation to Holiness”, Pope John Paul II reminds us that any vocation to serve in love is, of itself, a call to holiness, for the task of the church is the sanctification of all, especially of those who seek to follow Christ within the church itself: “The main task of the church is to lead Christians along the path of holiness, so that, illuminated by the intelligence of faith, they may learn to know and contemplate Christ’s face and to rediscover in Him their own identity and the mission that the Lord entrusts to each of them”.
As we reflect on the mystery of our life, we are called to discern our vocation, the mission which the Lord desires to entrust to each one of us in a unique way. This is where the importance of prayer and reflection comes in. Prayer leads to holiness and wisdom. Holiness comes through an intimate union with God. Holiness is a desire to imitate Jesus who was intimately united with the Father. His loving experience with the Father was reflected in his actions of love for people, especially for the poor, the sick, the broken-hearted, the troubled.
Prayer draws us closer to God and enhances our own self-knowledge. It is this union with God and in this self-knowledge that we discover that God’s will for us is the particular way in which God’s love attracts us to service in love. In this union with God we find the strength and courage to respond to God’s invitation. Then we discover that the best life one can lead is a life in communion and cooperation with God. A vocation is an invitation, for God has given us the gift of freedom and in this freedom we can joyfully respond in choosing a life in communion with God. This communion helps us to attain holiness of life. In the book of Leviticus God reminds us: “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am Holy” (Lev. 19:2)
The pope invites us to reflect on all the vocations in the church as a radiant reflection of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. In the church, one community united in love and in the mission of Jesus, we praise the name of the Father, we follow Jesus our saviour and the Holy Spirit leads us in our different vocations. We discover our own special vocation by listening to God’s word in prayer and by participating in the sacraments.
Jesus himself entrusted to us the responsibility of spreading the word of God to all people: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything which I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20). We may put these words into practice by bringing our children to deeper faith in God. We may also put them into practice by encouraging and praying for more vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. The pope also urges this: “It is to these vocations that I invite everyone to pay particular attention today, by intensifying their prayers for them”. Let us then, in union with the Holy Father and the church throughout the world, pray for more vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, so that more and more young people may respond to God’s invitation. May God bless us with many priests and religious who will imitate Jesus in their life. May God help them to lead a holy, simple, obedient and chaste life. May the Lord bless you and your family.
+ John Baptist Cardinal Wu The Bishop of Hong Kong Solemnity of the Annunciation 2002