Friday, February 17, 2012

All vocations are born and grow by opening up to God’s love, says pope

“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. By drawing from this wellspring through prayer, [. . .], it becomes possible to live a life of love for our neighbours, in whom we come to perceive the face of Christ the Lord,” said Pope Benedict in his message for the 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated on 29 April 2012. 

It is centred on ‘Vocations, the Gift of the Love of God’.

“The source of every perfect gift is God who is Love,” the pope writes. “We are loved by God even "before" we come into existence! Moved solely by his unconditional love, he created us "not … out of existing things" (cf. 2 Macc 7:28), to bring us into full communion with Him.”

“It is a love that is limitless and that precedes us, sustains us and calls us along the path of life, a love rooted in an absolutely free gift of God. [. . .] Every specific vocation is in fact born of the initiative of God; it is a gift of the Love of God! He is the One who takes the "first step", and not because he has found something good in us, but because of the presence of his own love ‘poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 5:5).”

“In every age, the source of the divine call is to be found in the initiative of the infinite love of God, who reveals himself fully in Jesus Christ. [. . .] The love of God is everlasting; he is faithful to himself, to the "word that he commanded for a thousand generations" (Ps 105:8). Yet the appealing beauty of this divine love, which precedes and accompanies us, needs to be proclaimed ever anew, especially to younger generations. This divine love is the hidden impulse, the motivation which never fails, even in the most difficult circumstances.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, 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.”

By opening up to God’s love, we learn to love one’s fellow man. It is an “inseparable bond”. 

“These two expressions of the one divine love must be lived with a particular intensity and purity of heart by those who have decided to set out on the path of vocation discernment towards the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life; they are its distinguishing mark. 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. Saint Peter’s vehement reply to the Divine Master: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you" (Jn 21:15) contains the secret of a life fully given and lived out, and thus one which is deeply joyful.

The other practical expression of love, that towards our neighbour, and especially those who suffer and are in greatest need, is the decisive impulse that leads the priest and the consecrated person to be a builder of communion between people and a sower of hope. The relationship of consecrated persons, and especially of the priest, to the Christian community is vital and becomes a fundamental dimension of their affectivity. The Curé of Ars was fond of saying: "Priests are not priests for themselves, but for you" (Le cure d’Ars. Sa pensée – Son cœur, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 100).

To bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, catechists, pastoral workers and all of you who are engaged in the field of educating young people, the pope said “to pay close attention” to those who sense a call to the priesthood or to a special consecration. 

“It is important for the Church to create the conditions that will permit many young people to say ‘yes’ in generous response to God’s loving call.”

“The task of fostering vocations will be to provide helpful guidance and direction along the way. Central to this should be love of God’s word nourished by a growing familiarity with sacred Scripture, and attentive and unceasing prayer, both personal and in community; this will make it possible to hear God’s call amid all the voices of daily life. But above all, the Eucharist should be the heart of every vocational journey: it is here that 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. Scripture, prayer and the Eucharist are the precious treasure enabling us to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in service of the Kingdom.”

It is the pope’s hope that “local Churches and all the various groups within them, will become places where vocations are carefully discerned and their authenticity tested, places where young men and women are offered wise and strong spiritual direction. In this way, the Christian community itself becomes a manifestation of the Love of God in which every calling is contained. As a response to the demands of the new commandment of Jesus, this can find eloquent and particular realization in Christian families, whose love is an expression of the love of Christ who gave himself for his Church (cf. Eph 5:32)."

Within the family, "a community of life and love" (Gaudium et Spes, 48), young people can have a wonderful experience of this self-giving love. Indeed, families are not only the privileged place for human and Christian formation; they can also be "the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God" (Familiaris Consortio, 53), by helping their members to see, precisely within the family, the beauty and the importance of the priesthood and the consecrated life."

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