Vatican City (AsiaNews) Despite a culture of self-sufficiency that pushes people to do without God and the dearth of priests in some parts of the world, "the certainty that Christ inspires men shall never fail." Like the Apostles who left all other occupations, they totally devote themselves to celebrating the sacred mysteries, preaching the Gospel and performing the pastoral ministry, the 'one essential mission'.
In his first message for 'World Day of Prayer for Vocations', Pope Benedict XVI urges people to have hope and faith. Released today, the message contains a prayer written by the Holy Father himself.
The World Day is at its 43rd edition and will be celebrated next May 7. This year's theme will be: "Vocation in the mystery of the Church".
The Church "is holy even if its members need to be purified, that its holiness, God's gift, may sparkle to its fullest splendour."
"One need not be perfect" to answer God's call, writes Benedict XVI. Vocations can come in different forms. All of us, he stresses, "are called to live as Jesus' brothers and sisters, to feel as sons and daughters of the same Father."
"It is a gift that turns every exclusively human idea and project on its head. Confessing the true faith opens the mind and the heart to the inexhaustible mystery of God, which permeates human existence."
"What can be said then of temptation, which is very strong these days, to feel self-sufficient to the extent that we shut out the God's mysterious plan towards us? That the Father's love revealed in the person of Christ beckons us".
"It is not necessary to be perfect to answer God's call and start the journey. We know how awareness of one's sin led the prodigal son back to experience the joy of reconciliation with the Father. Human frailties and limits are not an obstacle as long as they make us more aware that we need the redeeming grace of Christ."
Therefore, within the framework of the "universal call to holiness", Jesus "calls in every generation those who take care of his people. He especially calls to the priestly ministry men who exert the paternal function whose source is the paternity of God himself (cf, Eph, 3: 15)".
About this "one essential mission", John Paul II wrote in Pastores dabo vobis, that the "relation of the priest to Jesus Christ, and in him to his Church, is found in the very being of the priest by virtue of his sacramental consecration/anointing and in his activity, that is, in his mission or ministry."
Another "special vocation which occupies a place of honours in the Church is the call to consecrated life. Like Mary in Bethany '(who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak' (Lk 10: 39), many men and women consecrate themselves to following Christ totally and exclusively."
"They may perform services such as preparing humans and taking care of the poor, teaching and caring for the sick, but they do not consider these activities as their main purpose in life, because as the Code of Canon Law says: 'The first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer,' (Can. 663, § 1)".
In remembering Jesus' advice"The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest." (Mt, 9: 37) Benedict XVI urges us to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life for, as he writes, "[i]t is not surprising that where people pray with fervour, vocations blossom".
He concludes his message with this prayer:
"Father, let there be amongst Christians
many holy vocations to the priesthood,
to keep alive the faith
and guard the grateful memory of your Son Jesus
through preaching his word
and administering the Sacraments,
with which you continually renew your faithful.
Give us holy ministers for your altar,
who can be attentive and fervent keepers of the Eucharist,
sacrament of the supreme gift of Christ for the redemption of the world.
Call upon the ministers of your mercy,
who, through the sacrament of Reconciliation,
spread the joy of your forgiveness.
Father, may the Church welcome with joy
the numerous inspirations of the Spirit of your Son
and, meek to your teaching,
may it take care of the vocations to the priestly ministry
and the consecrated life.
Support bishops, priests, deacons,
the consecrated and all those baptised in Christ,
that they may faithfully fulfill their mission
in the Service of the Gospel.
We ask you to do it for Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mary, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us!"