The 4th Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday, and this year it falls on 25 April 2021. The Catholic Church dedicates prayer for an increase in vocations to the ordained ministries – priesthood and diaconate and religious life. The Holy Father Pope Francis, in his message for the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations has chosen the theme: “Saint Joseph – The Dream of Vocation” in line with the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of St Joseph as Patron Saint of the Universal Church.
The Holy Father recognises that St Joseph is an extraordinary person who is “so close to our human experience”. Although he did not have any unique charisms nor any astounding or special status, he accomplished the service and mission entrusted to him by God the Father. In Saint Joseph, God “recognised the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines.” Every person’s vocation has an aim “of begetting and renewing the lives of others.” Therefore, the individual greatly needs to reflect on three key words in order to pursue their journey – “Dream, Service and Fidelity”.
Dream: Saint Joseph had four dreams (cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19 & 22) where God’s voice came to him through an angel, and in all the four dreams he obediently accepted “to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely.” Likewise in our own calling, we should not hesitate in responding to God’s call but “to take a first step, to give ourselves and to press forward.” God’s call never puts pressure on our freedom but “quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings.” He carries out His plans in us in a gentle way and He surprises us in our every “yes”.
Service: Any vocation requires service, sacrifice and the ability to love unconditionally. Saint Joseph gave his service entirely for others and sacrificed his life with a great love. He is a model for every vocation – whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity. Saint Joseph was ever-ready to face any circumstance without complaining. He was considered an “outstretched hand of our Heavenly Father, reaching out to His Son on Earth” where he gave willingly his service to protect Jesus. He “got up, took the child and his mother by night,” to Egypt (Mt 2:14), an unknow place, for the good of his family.
Fidelity: Saint Joseph knew that constant fidelity was the key to success in life. Vocation is nurtured and matures only through our daily faithfulness. Saint Joseph remained faithful to his promises and said “Yes” to God through his fidelity each day. Through our faithfulness to our vocation, we will experience joy in our ministry.
On this Vocation Sunday, we pray that our young people may discern God’s will and that the Holy Spirit inspires in them a desire to respond to His call to priesthood and consecrated life, and to serve our Church faithfully and truthfully.
Saint Joseph, protector of vocations – accompany us with a fatherly heart!
(An Extract of the message of the Holy Father for the World Day of Vocations 2021)
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy