Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
When Jesus described the hireling who ran away at the sight of the wolf, he said: “he has no concern for the sheep.” These words reveal to us the motive of our Lord when he, the Good Shepherd, deliberately laid down his life for his sheep. If the hireling has no concern for the sheep, our Lord loves his sheep: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I will lay down my life for my sheep.” It is love that makes him know each of us who belong to his flock. It is love that makes him lay down his life for his sheep. And there can be no greater love than this: that a man should lay down his life for his friends. He offered his life in absolute freedom: “I lay down my life in order to take it us again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down on my own.”
It is this love of Christ that beckons us to himself. In his message for today’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Holy Father says: “we need to open our lives to this love. It is to the perfection of the Father’s love (cf. Mt 5:48) that Jesus Christ calls us every day! The high standard of the Christian life consists in loving ‘as’ God loves; with a love that is shown in the total, faithful and fruitful gift of self…It is in this soil of self-offering and openness to the love of God, and as the fruit of that love, that all vocations are born and grow. ” The man or the woman who discovers how much he is loved by Christ, desires to responds to this love by loving in return. Love for love! The one who discovers the depth of love that brought Christ to lay down his life for us will also desire to offer his life for Christ. “Love of God, which priests and consecrated persons are called to mirror, however imperfectly, is the motivation for answering the Lord’s call to special consecration through priestly ordination or the profession of the evangelical counsels.”
Let us never tire of proclaiming this love of God most especially to the youth. Our parish should create the conditions that will permit the young people to make their generous response to the love of God. We should foster in our youth a love for prayer, Scriptures, and the Eucharist which enable us “to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in the service of the Kingdom.” In the Eucharist, “the love of God touches us in Christ’s sacrifice, the perfect expression of love, and it is here that we learn ever anew how to live according to the ‘high standard’ of God’s love.” When we instill in our youth a love for the Eucharist, we help foster vocations. My own vocation story was very much associated to the Eucharist. I was an altar boy who served at Mass every day. In the Eucharist I discovered God’s call to the priesthood.
Our families should live out their vocation to be communities of life and love where our children learn the lesson of self-giving love. The Christian family is ““the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God” (Familiaris Consortio, 53). When children experience authentic love in their families, they learn how to love and eventually respond to God’s call.
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we might be called children of God.” Christ, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life so that we might be called children of God. See the love of the Father. See the love of the Son. Jesus calls us to the perfection of the Father’s love. Let us open our lives to this love.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!