The Call of the Good Shepherd
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday or World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We celebrate the call of the Good Shepherd to those who lovingly embrace and faithfully live out their lives in the married, single, religious, or priestly vocation. Several years ago, Pope Francis gave the Church a message to reflect on, where he links the vocation of every Christian to the unique vocation of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church. All states of life are indispensable for the building up of God’s Kingdom, but today as we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, we recognize the necessity of priestly vocations for the future of the Sacramental Life of the Church and the role of priests and religious to help believers discover their own vocation and to live it faithfully. For this reason, I would like to connect three points the Holy Father made in his message to a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.
Pope Francis reminded us that, ‘Joseph’s dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. The first of these up-ended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth. Amid all of these upheavals, Joseph found the courage to follow God’s will.’ God asked Joseph to let go of his own dreams and make his entire life a gift to God. In the words of Pope Francis, “May St. Joseph help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say “yes” to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.”
The second aspect of Joseph’s vocation is service. He serves Mary and Jesus in God’s name. For everyone discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life, Joseph grounds their calling and desire in service. Priesthood and religious life are not about power or prestige. They are about humble service of God and His people. Such dedication requires sacrifice and commitment but comes with the reward of deep fulfillment. If one experiences fear of what he or she is being asked to give up, think instead of the joy of serving and that the Lord never leaves us lacking in anything when we respond generously to His call. Like St. Joseph, concern for others is a sign of a true vocation and is testimony of a life touched by God.
The third link between a priestly or religious vocation and the witness of St. Joseph is his fidelity. Love is persistent. It requires us to be faithful in good times and bad. Joseph is a righteous man who was faithful to everyday holiness. He is the faithful father who honors his word to his wife and what God was asking of him. In the words of Pope Francis, ‘Fidelity and trust in God is the secret of your joy.’ Let us pray that those God is calling to serve Him as priests and religious may respond with generosity, fidelity, and trust.
God, our Father, we trust in your loving kindness. Bless our Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Universal Church with many priestly and religious vocations. Give the men and women you call the light to understand your gift and the love to walk always in the footsteps of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
May God love and bless you!
Sr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, IHM