21 Apr Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016
Father Stéphane Pouliot
In order for us to stay secure in the Father’s hand (cf. John 10:29), we are provided with shepherds because the Father’s heart does not want that any of his sheep should perish, deceived into wrongly thinking that He does not care about our ultimate salvation (cf. John 10:27-30). On this Good Shepherd Sunday, also known as the World Day of prayer for vocations, let us be clear that unless we are aware of our need for some specific vocations, we won’t even be nurturing and encouraging the vocations the Lord is providing His people.
“While appreciating all vocations, (most especially sacramental marriage who is the cradle where every other vocation is nurtured), the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the priesthood, to the Religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic), to societies of apostolic life, to secular institutes in their diversity of service and membership, and (to a particular missionary life where one leaves everything to serve the Church’s mission of proclaiming Jesus into a new land, people and language chosen by God to experience the powerful joy of the Gospel)”.
The Church chooses to encourage us on the fourth Sunday of Easter to pray for those particular vocations which signify powerfully that Heaven is our ultimate destiny, so that those who desire marriage, may not only choose a spouse for an earthly lifetime, but enter into a sacrament which makes God’s love visible to those generously welcomed as family, to the world, and even beyond death. Imagine a world without priests, as well as without consecrated celibates in religious life and other forms of religious consecration. Would not the horizon of any of you married couples be reduced to the here and now of your relationship?
Would this reduced horizon ever be able to satisfy your desire as husband and wife for infinite love?
This is then the reason to pray for an expanded horizon of vocations bringing this heavenly perspective. The fourth Sunday of Easter is chosen to be the World Day of prayer for more priests, as well as more men and women responding to God’s call for them to embrace one of the various forms of consecrated celibacy.
The Word of God proclaimed this Sunday provides us the healthy context in which vocations to the priesthood and other forms of consecrated celibacy grow.
The Catholic community of the early Church prayed for Paul and Barnabas, affirmed their celibate and missionary vocation, supported them with its prayer, and was eager to hear their testimonies about what God had done through them to build the Church upon their return to their home base.
Paul and Barnabas’ priestly vocation grew in a community who was eager to know Jesus, to love Him and to serve Him. The consecrated celibacy of Paul and Barnabas was esteemed by the community who sent them as missionaries. While commissioning them for a particular mission abroad, the growing community of disciples after Pentecost stimulated everyone to invite family members, friends and coworkers to put Jesus at the centre of their lives. This culture of evangelization stimulated a missionary mentality who called forth those who, like Paul and Barnabas, were called to evangelize abroad.
In the harvesting of the multitude of men and women prophesied in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 7:9), those who choose to accept the vocation of chaste celibacy are told that their commitment exudes a unique beauty which inspires because “it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes (Revelation 14:4), the Lamb referring here to Jesus whose bloody sacrifice saves those who surrender their sins to Him.
Speaking to consecrated virgins, saint Augustine writes: “The masses of the faithful, unable to follow the Lamb to this blessing, will rejoice with you; but they will not be able to sing that new song which is for you alone”. What does he mean?
Recognizing that not everyone is called to embody the blessing of consecrated celibacy, saint Augustine encourages every husband and wife to rejoice with their children that God has given and will give to the Church priests, religious sisters and brothers whose lives sing the truth that, already on this earth, only God truly satisfies the human heart. While this truth can only be sung by consecrated celibates, husbands and wives will love each other more selflessly if they recognize that only God can give them the love they first need to receive before they can give it away to their spouse and children.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who need some to follow Him “wherever He goes” in order to gather a multitude and thereby preserve them from perishing. Where does Jesus choose to go, what does He become in order to save us? Jesus, who as God owns everything, as man chooses to become poor. Jesus, who as God is Creator, as man chooses to forego marriage and children. Jesus, who as God has supreme authority, as man chooses to obey Joseph and Mary.
Therefore this day calls us to enter into the heart of God who desires us to pray for existing and future priests, religious, and consecrated men and women who through poverty, chaste celibacy, and obedience to an earthly superior, follow Jesus wherever He goes.
Make no mistake: all are impacted by this day. Priests are not born priests. Neither religious sisters nor religious brothers are born as such. Priests, and other consecrated celibates are always the sons and daughters of men and women. Many of these men and women gave and continue to give their children who became consecrated celibates the testimony of a generous and faithful marriage where God always comes first, because no one deserves to be loved more than God who first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10).
Prayer is needed for the redemption of every marriage and every family. Priests, as well as religious sisters and brothers, dedicate their lives to pray for married couples and their children, as well as for every man, woman, and child, experiencing the pain of a broken marriage and of a divided family. What an honour to be reminded once a year to pray daily for those who have dedicated their celibate lives to the service of God’s people!
How beautiful that we commit ourselves this day to sustain in prayer those who feel right now in their childhood, teenage years, or university years, the first stirrings of the Spirit calling them to dedicate their priestly and their consecrated celibacy for the redemption of every marriage and family!
I have spent my entire young life being aware that I would never have become a priest if many of you had not prayed for me, without knowing me, and so many of us would not know the blessed witness of religious brothers and sisters were it not for those who prayed long before us for the generous response of their hearts to God’s call upon them. Let us now pray for the harvest of a multitude of marriages and families consecrated to God as well as for many young men to become priests, for many men and women to become consecrated celibates, accepting thereby to be prophetic harvesters for the Kingdom of Heaven:
Father of mercy, who gave your Son (Jesus) for our salvation
and who strengthens us always with the gifts of your Spirit,
grant us Christian communities
which are alive, fervent and joyous,
which are fonts of fraternal life,
and which nurture in the young
the desire to consecrate themselves to you
and to the work of evangelization.
Sustain these communities
in their commitment to offer appropriate vocational catechesis and ways of proceeding
towards each one’s particular consecration.
Grant the wisdom needed for vocational discernment,
so that in all things the greatness of your merciful love
may shine forth.
May Mary, Mother and guide of Jesus,
intercede for each Christian community, so that,
made fruitful by the Holy Spirit,
it may be a source of true vocations
for the service of the holy People of God. Amen.
“O God, Father of all mercies, Provider of a Bountiful Harvest, send your Graces upon those You have called to gather the fruits of Your labour, preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.
Open the hearts of Your children that they may discern Your Holy Will; inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves to serving others in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life guided by Your Divine Word and Truth. Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, all the Angels and Saints, humbly hear our prayers and grant Your Church’s needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
 Partially quoted and inspired by the post on April 14th 2016 from the USCCB website to mark the 53rd anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
 St. Augustine, On Holy Virginity, 29, quoted in Ignatius CAtholic Study Bible New Testament, Second Catholic Edition RSV, © 2010, p.509.
 Prayer which Pope Francis gives us for this day, found on www.kingstonvocations.com
 Prayer found on « Roaming Catholics with Onyebuchi Victor Awazie and Isidorus Amandi Triangga » on April 14th 2016 at 9 :07pm via their Facebook page.