The important things in life are both gift and task. At the same time. Like the sides of a coin. Life itself, health, loved ones, the qualities we have, faith... All this cannot be bought or sold, but is given to us as a gift, and at the same time implies a responsibility to maintain it and make it grow and bear fruit.
In the life of the Church, the following are of great importance "vocations": people who discover their life as a response to God's call and who unfold this vocation in their existence. In the words of Francis in his Message for this year's Day, starting from the scene of the call of Jesus to the first disciples by the Lake of Galilee: "Vocation is an invitation not to stay on the shore with our nets in our hands, but to follow Jesus along the path that he has planned for us, for our happiness and for the good of those around us.".
A gift and a task. As a task, in the Church we need to work for vocations, so that each Christian discovers his way of following Jesus and is faithful in his response to the Lord. And as a gift, in the Church we need to ask for vocations, as the Master himself recommended to us: "...".Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."(Matthew 9:38). This need to "pray for vocations" is at the origin of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations and Native Vocations, held on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday.
After some historical precedents, it was St. Paul VI who officially instituted the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (WYD) on January 23, 1964. With regard to the approach, starting from the esteem for all vocations, the Church, on the occasion of this World Day, has been focusing her attention in a special way on consecrated vocations: to the ordained ministry (priests and deacons) and to the consecrated life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic). There will be other days during the year dedicated to other forms of life and mission (family, lay apostolate, World Mission Sunday, etc.).
With respect to the Native Vocations Daylinked to the Pontifical Work of St. Peter the Apostle, is intended to be a day especially dedicated to prayer and cooperation with young people who are called to the priesthood or consecrated life in mission territories. Since 2016, in Spain it is celebrated jointly with the WYD on the same day, coinciding with the IV Sunday of Easter, already mentioned.
In this year 2019, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is May 12. And the title of the Message of the Holy Father Francis for the LVI World Day of Prayer for Vocations is. The courage to risk for God's promise. In this suggestive writing, which we invite you to read, he says things like the following: "The call of the Lord is not an intrusion of God into our freedom; it is not a 'cage' or a weight placed on us. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative with which God comes to meet us and invites us to enter into a great project, in which he wants us to participate, showing us on the horizon a wider sea and a superabundant catch."
In this Message, Pope Francis adopts an integrating perspective, in line with the way in which the question of vocations was dealt with in the recent Synod on "young people, faith and vocational discernment". From there, he begins by speaking of the call to the Christian life, for all, and then explains the various ways of making it concrete:
"The Christian life is also expressed in those choices which, while giving a precise direction to our navigation, contribute to the growth of the kingdom of God in society. I am referring to the decision to marry in Christ and to form a family, as well as to other vocations linked to the world of work and the professions, to commitment in the field of charity and solidarity, to social and political responsibilities, etc. [...]
In the encounter with the Lord, someone can feel the call to the consecrated life or to the priesthood. It is an exciting and at the same time frightening discovery, when one feels called to become a 'fisher of men' in the boat of the Church through the total gift of self and by committing oneself to a faithful service to the Gospel and to one's brothers and sisters. This choice involves the risk of leaving everything to follow the Lord and consecrate oneself completely to him, to become collaborators in his work".
In our context, for some years now, prayer and celebration materials have been prepared jointly by the Spanish Episcopal Conference and the Spanish Conference of Religious (CONFER), recently joined by the Spanish Conference of Secular Institutes (CEDIS) and, on the native vocations side, by the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS). The slogan chosen for this year, based on the Pope's Message, is Say yes to God's dream. As our popular saying goes: "A God begging, and with a sledgehammer he gives". If vocations in the Church are important, we all have to work for them, knowing that since they are a gift, we all have to ask the Lord for them. May there be neither one nor the other for us. n